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New guidelines to help GPs spruik dementia prevention

Aussie researchers hope getting new prevention guidelines into the hands of GPs will help reduce rates of dementia.

Professor Kaarin Anstey, a senior principal researcher at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW, said GPs are well positioned to play a significant role in dementia risk reduction.

“GPs see people with multiple risk factors and, by using these new recommendations, can ensure patients receive the earliest possible care and advice to reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia,” Anstey said.

The authors’ hope for the guidelines is predicated on research like that from the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, which found around 15 per cent of dementia cases globally could be prevented by making straightforward GP-recommended changes, like reducing blood pressure or increasing physical activity.

And with around 110,000 new diagnoses in Australia each year, there is a high number of people who could benefit from prevention initiatives.

The guidelines cover risk factors like alcohol consumption, smoking, cognitive engagement, medication and obesity.

“In addition to the usual risk factors for chronic disease such as diet and physical activity, and medical treatment of cardiovascular risk factors, some less common strategies are indicated for potential dementia prevention,” the authors wrote. “These include increasing social and cognitive engagement by participation in lifestyle activities, treating depression and addressing insomnia.”

Dr Dimity Pond, a Professor of General Practice at the University of Newcastle, said Australia needs to pay more attention to dementia prevention.

Pond said: “Combined with their knowledge of a patient’s lifestyle and medical condition, GPs and GP practice nurses can use these guidelines to provide targeted advice to individuals who can, in turn, be more responsible for their own cognitive health.”

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