Participants in a recent poll who had a family history of dementia or who had been a caregiver to someone with dementia were less likely to rate their memories as good, were more likely to worry about developing dementia and were more likely to think they would develop dementia.
The installment of the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted in October with results released today, included a national sample of 1,028 adults aged 50 to 64 years.
Among those with a family history of dementia (37% of respondents), 73% thought they were likely to develop dementia, compared with 32% of those without a family history of the disease.
Similarly, 66% of those with a family history of dementia said they were worried about developing dementia, compared with 28% of those without a family history of the disease. Also, 65% of those who had been a caregiver to someone with dementia (18% of respondents) were more likely to worry about developing the disease, compared with 39% for those who had not.
Those with a family history of dementia were more likely to say that they would participate in research related to the disease compared with those without a family history, including research involving providing a DNA sample (71% versus 51%), testing a new medicine (59% versus 34%) and testing a new treatment (61% versus 33%).
Only 10% of those with a family history of dementia said they had spoken with a physician about ways to prevent dementia.
“Many people may not realize they could help preserve brain health by managing their blood pressure and blood sugar, getting more physical activity and better sleep, and stopping smoking,” said Donovan Maust, M.D., M.S., a University of Michigan geriatric psychiatrist who helped design the poll and analyze the results.
Indeed, getting regular exercise; not smoking; avoiding harmful use of alcohol; controlling weight; eating a healthful diet; maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and staying intellectually active all can help reduce the risk of dementia, according to new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization on Tuesday.
“There are a few things that we can do that maybe will not, say, prevent Alzheimer’s disease definitively, but may delay its onset, slow its progression if it develops,” said Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. He was a member of the panel that developed the guidelines.
“And usually one of the most impactful recommendations regards physical exercise,” Peterson added.