New guidelines have been issued for Australian GPs that could help reduce dementia rates nationally. The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention has found that around 15 per cent of dementia cases globally could be prevented by making straightforward GP-recommended changes, such as reducing blood pressure or increasing physical activity.
More than 500,000 people in Australia have dementia and there are around 110,000 new diagnoses each year.
“Many Australians don’t realise they can effectively reduce their risk of developing dementia. These guidelines will equip GPs with evidence-based guidance on modifiable risk factors in mid and late life,” said Professor Kaarin Anstey, a Senior Principal Researcher at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW.
The risk factors covered by the guidelines include diet, alcohol consumption, physical activity, smoking, social engagement, sleep, obesity and medical conditions.
The guidelines have been developed by the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration (DCRC) for the NHMRC Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre (CDCP) and combine 10 years of research into simple and usable instructions for doctors. The CDCP produced the first Australian Clinical Guidelines for people with dementia in 2016. These new guidelines add new information on risk reduction and are part of a series of guidelines and resources designed specifically for GPs.
“We have only been able to produce these guidelines now because of new research in the past five years. This research has enabled us to better identify risk factors and the action we can take to lessen their impact,” said Professor Anstey, who is a Director of the DCRC.
“GPs are well positioned to play a significant role in dementia risk reduction. GPs see people with multiple risk factors and, by using these new recommendations, can ensure patients receive the earliest possible care and advice to reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia,” Professor Anstey said.
“Much more attention needs to be given to the prevention of dementia in Australia. Combined with their knowledge of a patient’s lifestyle and medical condition, GPs and GP practice nurses can use these guidelines to provide targeted advice to individuals who can, in turn, be more responsible for their own cognitive health. Knowing this resource is based on up to date evidence assures GPs across Australia that they are providing the most current support possible,” said Dr Dimity Pond, GP and Professor of General Practice at the University of Newcastle.
Kaarin Anstey’s research team was one of the two teams globally that developed the evidence briefs for the World Health Organisation’s Guidelines on Risk Reduction for Cognitive Decline and Dementia, issued in May 2019.