Working towards mid-life understanding and intervention to prevent late life neurodegeneration
Treatment of dementia is at present only able to stabilize symptoms for a short period and improve the care of associated problems. There is presently no available treatment to prevent the onset of the diseases which cause dementia. On the other hand studies carried out in the community show that a number of biological and environmental factors may increase the risk of dementia or influence its time of onset. Many of these risk factors are treatable (for example diabetes and high blood pressure), however, we are mainly exposed to these risks in middle age rather than in old age when dementia occurs. It is thus possible that the changes in peoples’ brains leading to dementia may actually start as young as 40 or 50 years of age, although the diagnosis may not be made until decades later when these changes cause severe disability. If this is the case then dementia must be considered to be a disease of adulthood and not old age.Intervention should thus be planned much earlier than at present.
The aim of the PREVENT research programme is:
a) to search for biological changes which may indicate the beginning of dementia in middle-aged adults with a family history of dementia; and
b) by working with various collaborators, including the pharmaceutical industry and experts in environmental interventions (for example diet, exercise, memory training), to develop prevention programmes which will reduce the risk for these persons of developing dementia later in life.