Reducing poverty could help lower dementia risk in older people, study finds

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A new study suggests that reducing poverty and improving social policies may help lower the chances of developing dementia.

This is particularly relevant for aging populations and countries grappling with the increasing health care challenges of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Income Equality and Health

Researchers from Université de Montréal and the CIUSSS-NIM in Canada have conducted a meta-analysis, looking at 18 studies and data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

They found that in countries with better income equality and lower poverty rates, there was a significant association with a reduced likelihood of dementia among people who had Alzheimer’s pathology but were still cognitively healthy.

The Numbers Tell a Story

In their analysis, the researchers noticed that almost half of the individuals without dementia already had moderate Alzheimer’s changes in their brain, as revealed by autopsies.

Interestingly, this was consistent across both men and women, despite the fact that women are generally more affected by Alzheimer’s in the wider population.

A Closer Look at Social Policies

The study looked at social policy indicators like public spending on long-term care, the Gini index (which measures income inequality), and poverty rates.

They found that for every 5% decrease in income inequality among seniors, there was a 6% reduction in the risk of dementia for those with moderate Alzheimer’s changes in the brain. Similarly, just a 1% reduction in poverty levels was linked to a 1% decrease in dementia risk.

Implications for Policymakers

This research is suggesting a strong link between the health of our brains and the health of our society.

The findings underscore the importance of progressive social policies that target poverty reduction and income equality as potential ways to reduce the burden of dementia.

Rethinking Health Guidelines

The study’s lead researcher, Yulia Bodryzlova, criticizes the current approach to dementia prevention, which often focuses on individual behavior changes and treatment development, as largely ineffective.

She argues that policies aimed at reducing stress and increasing social inclusion could have far-reaching effects on public health, even down to the cellular level.

A Call for Action

The takeaway from this study is clear: to effectively combat the growing challenge of dementia, there needs to be a shift toward addressing systemic issues like poverty and income inequality.

By focusing on broader social changes and better-funded public health services, we might not only create a more equitable society but also a healthier, more cognitively resilient aging population.

In conclusion, while the battle against dementia continues, this study shines a light on the potential of social policies to make a tangible difference in the lives of millions of people at risk of cognitive decline.

It’s a call for governments and health organizations to consider the wider societal factors that contribute to our brain health.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about Scientists find a drug related to Viagra may help treat vascular dementia and findings of link between body inflammation and dementia risk.

For more information about dementia, please see recent studies about Brain food: nourishing your mind to outsmart dementia and results showing that Re-evaluating the role of diet in dementia risk.

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