TUESDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of Alzheimer's cases globally could be prevented if modifiable risk factors such as depression, obesity and smoking were eliminated, either with lifestyle changes or treatment of underlying conditions, new research suggests.
Even reducing the level of risk factors by a modest amount could prevent millions of cases of the memory-robbing illness, the researchers said. For example, a 25 percent reduction in seven common risk factors -- including low education, obesity and smoking -- could prevent up to 3 million Alzheimer's cases around the world and up to half a million in the United States alone, the study found.
The new research is being presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Paris and will also be published online July 19 in The Lancet Neurology.
A second study, also being presented at AAIC, identified several "resiliency" characteristics that might help keep the aging mind healthy. Strengthening these factors could also help prevent Alzheimer's, researchers said.
"The idea here is to get a better bead on exactly how we can start untangling what the risk factors are, so that we cannot only treat and modify Alzheimer's but also start talking about prevention of Alzheimer's," said Mark Mapstone, associate professor of neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "The field is working very hard [to figure out] what these risk factors are so we can start heading this disease off before it starts."
Mapstone was not involved with either study.
The first group of researchers, led by Deborah Barnes of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), revisited prior epidemiological studies on links between Alzheimer's and seven key risk factors: low education levels, smoking, low physical activity, depression, hypertension during mid-life, obesity
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