Adopting an aggressive plan to reduce risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 15% per decade could result in 1.2 million fewer people living with the disease in 2050, according to experts.

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Alzheimer’s Association on Sept. 8 sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra last week urging the administration to renew the nation’s commitment to preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.

Specifically, the organizations urged HHS to add a sixth pillar to its National Alzheimer’s Project Act plan to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia by 2025, enhance care quality and efficiency, expand support for people living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their families, enhance public awareness and engagement, improve data to track progress, and reduce the burden of risk factors. 

Those potential risk factors include depression, diabetes, hearing loss, mid-life hypertension, physical inactivity, poor diet quality and obesity, poor sleep quality and sleep disorders, tobacco use, traumatic brain injury and unhealthy alcohol use. 

The NAPA Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services adopted a recommendation in July to update the national plan by adding that sixth pillar. The group included recommendations and specific strategies to achieve a goal of reducing risk factors for the disease by 15% per decade to prevent as many as 1.2 million people from receiving a diagnosis of the disease in 2050. 

A broad range of almost 200 groups —  including American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care, AARP, the American Geriatrics Society, Genworth Financial and the John A. Hartford Foundation — joined the effort in issuing a call to action for a national effort to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Updating the NAPA plan and publicly embracing this new goal would be a critical step forward to raise awareness of steps we all can take to build cognitive resilience and bring hope for tens of millions of American families,” the letter read. “A greater focus on prevention and risk reduction will show people across the country and the world that dementia is not an inevitable consequence of aging, but instead is a disease that can be prevented, treated and ultimately cured.”