The number of people with dementia will nearly triple to more than 152 million by 2050, researchers estimate, based on anticipated trends in smoking, high body mass index and high blood sugar.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, forecast dementia prevalence attributable to smoking, high body mass index (BMI) and high fasting plasma glucose, using the expected relationship between these risk factors and dementia prevalence.
They found an increase of 6.8 million dementia cases globally between 2019 and 2050 due specifically to expected changes in these risk factors.
Separately and conversely, the researchers found that expected changes in education levels will lead to a decline in dementia prevalence of 6.2 million individuals globally between 2019 and 2050.
The data was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, (AAIC) 2021 in Denver.
“Improvements in lifestyle in adults in developed countries and other places — including increasing access to education and greater attention to heart health issues — have reduced incidence in recent years, but total numbers with dementia are still going up because of the ageing of the population,” Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer Maria C. Carrillo said.
“In addition, obesity, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles in younger people are rising quickly, and these are risk factors for dementia,” she added.
To forecast global dementia prevalence, Emma Nichols, a researcher with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the varsity’s School of Medicine, and colleagues leveraged data from 1999 to 2019 from the Global Burden of Disease study.
They showed that each year, an estimated 10 in every 100,000 individuals develop dementia with early onset (prior to age 65). This corresponds to 350,000 new cases of early onset dementia per year, globally.
Dementia would increase from an estimated 57.4 (50.4 to 65.1) million cases globally in 2019 to an estimated 152.8 (130.8 to 175.6) million cases in 2050.
The highest increase in prevalence is projected to be in eastern sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East.
“Without effective treatments to stop, slow or prevent Alzheimer’s and all dementia, this number will grow beyond 2050 and continue to impact individuals, caregivers, health systems and governments globally,” Carrillo said.
“In addition to therapeutics, it’s critical to uncover culturally-tailored interventions that reduce dementia risk through lifestyle factors like education, diet and exercise,” she noted.