17 Sep 2014

Changes needed to fight dementia

2:05 pm on 17 September 2014

New Zealanders are being urged to make simple lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of developing dementia.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

A meeting at the Otago University Medical School in Wellington on Wednesday heard that 50,000 New Zealanders have Alzheimer's Disease which is a form of dementia.

Executive director of Alzheimers New Zealand, Catherine Hall, told the gathering that latest world research indicates the instance of dementia may be falling in high-income countries due to improved education and cardio-vascular health.

She said exercise, limiting alcohol use and better control and detection of high blood pressure and diabetes, appear to be vital in preventing dementia.

"Looking after our hearts, getting more physical exercise, following a healthy diet, keeping our brains challenged, continuing to learn new things, and keeping socially engaged. If we can do that we can look to start reducing the impact on our families and on our communities."

Geriatrician Mark Weatherall said there is still no known cause of Alzheimers but smoking, high alcohol intake and head injuries in young adult life are clear risk factors.

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