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Therapeutic advances and risk factor management: our best chance to tackle dementia?

An update on research advances in this field that may help tackle this growing challenge more effectively

Increasing life expectancy has fuelled the growth in the prevalence of dementia. In 2015, there were an estimated 47 million people with dementia worldwide (including 343 000 in Australia), a number that will double every 20 years to 131 million by 2050 (900 000 in Australia).1 The global cost of dementia in 2015 was estimated to be US$818 billion.1 Low-to-middle income countries will experience the greatest rate of population ageing, and the disproportionate growth in dementia cases in these nations will be exacerbated by a relative lack of resources.

The diagnostic criteria for dementia (relabelled “major neurocognitive disorder”) of the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5)2 include a significant decline in one or more cognitive domains that is clinically evident, that interferes with independence in everyday activities, and is not caused by delirium or other mental illness. Whether the new diagnostic label catches on remains to be seen. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (50–70% of patients with dementia), followed by vascular dementia (10–20%), dementia with Lewy bodies (10%) and fronto-temporal dementia (4%).