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Levels of dementia 'stabilising' in the UK

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The growth in the number of people with dementia The growth in the number of people with dementia is lower than projected

The number of people with dementia appears to be levelling off, according to research published in the Lancet Neurology.

Researchers from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, compared dementia cases in adults in the UK in 2011 with the predicted figures from 1990. The researchers found that the current prevalence of dementia, in people over the age of 65 in the UK, was 22% less than was predicted in 1990.

The study looked at data from five large studies carried out across Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain and the UK and compared demetia occurrence in older people across two periods of time using similar methods of diagnosing dementia in the same geographical regions.

The reduction in the increase of dementia cases was the most significant in the UK. In Zaragoza, Spain the researchers found that there was a 43% reduction in the number of men 65 and older between 1987 and 1996. The studies conducted in Stockholm, Sweden and Rotterdam, the Netherlands showed that the age-specific incidence of dementia is falling in these areas.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer's Society, said: 'While this study is welcome in showing that the percentage of people in particular age groups developing dementia could be getting smaller, the overall number of people with dementia is still set to increase as more people live into their 80s and 90s.'

Professor Carol Brayne, one of the lead researchers, suggested that the reduction could be due to improvements in the understanding of dementia, which has led to better education and living conditions for people in the age group. Additionally, risk factors that can lead to dementia such as vascular disease have decreased in the UK since 1990.

Dr Matthew Norton, head of policy at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'Current trends in risk factors such as obesity and diabetes mean we should not be complacent, but measures to help people adopt healthy lifestyles now could have a real impact on the numbers of people living with dementia in the future.

'We still need greater public awareness of the risk factors for dementia, and policymakers as well as charities have a key role to play in improving people's understanding of what they can do to potentially reduce their risk,' he added.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt named dementia as one of his key clinical priorities for this government. This includes increasing funding for dementia research to find a cure by 2025 and supporting more health professionals to correctly diagnose the condition.

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