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Modifiable predictors identified for dementia in mild cognitive decline

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People with mild cognitive impairment are at higher risk of developing dementia if they have diabetes or psychiatric symptoms such as depression, according to UK researchers.

Mild cognitive impairment affects 19% of people aged 65 and over, and around half of those with it develop dementia within three years, compared with 3% of the general population.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean addressing diabetes, psychiatric symptoms and diet will reduce risk, but our review provides the best evidence to date about what might help”

Claudia Cooper

A systematic review, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, analysed data from 62 separate studies, following a total of 15,950 people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

Among people with the condition, it found those with diabetes were 65% more likely to progress to dementia and those with psychiatric symptoms were more than twice as likely to develop dementia.

“There are strong links between mental and physical health,” said lead author Dr Claudia Cooper, a psychiatrist from University College London.

“Lifestyle changes to improve diet and mood might help people with mild cognitive impairment to avoid dementia, and bring many other health benefits,” she said.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that addressing diabetes, psychiatric symptoms and diet will reduce an individual’s risk, but our review provides the best evidence to date about what might help,” she added.

The Alzheimer’s Society recommends that people stay socially and physically active to help prevent dementia, and eat a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in meat and saturated fats, such as the Mediterranean diet.

On Saturday, David Cameron announced the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020, which included a £300m investment in medical research and an international dementia institute to be established in England within five years.

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