Most Boomers are aware that Parkinson’s disease, dementia and stroke are among the biggest health problems facing over-60s. Now a new Dutch study has revealed just how high the chances are of being impacted by at least one of these health problems is for men and women around the world.
Research published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry has revealed women are at greater risk of being affected by the three conditions. Researchers from the Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam say one in two women and a third of all men will suffer either dementia, stroke or Parkinson’s in their lifetime.
The three conditions cost the world’s economic productivity more than 2 per cent per year, and experts warn that figure will continue to grow as life expectancy increases. While there’s plenty of public awareness around other major health issues, such as breast cancer and heart disease, researchers argue the same can’t be said for the lifetime risks associated with dementia, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.
As part of the study, the research team tracked the neurological health of more than 12,000 people between 1990 and 2016 and assessed the incidence of and influential factors behind diseases of ageing in the general population. Participants were at least 45 years old and 58 per cent were women. Each participant was given a thorough health check, which was repeated every four years for the duration of the study. Monitoring for dementia, Parkinson’s and stroke continued until death or until the trial was complete.
Researchers found 5,291 people died during the study and that 3,260 deaths weren’t the result of a neurological death. However, 1,489 people were diagnosed with dementia, 1,285 had a stroke and 263 were diagnosed with Parkinson’s. It was found those diagnosed with any of the three conditions had a higher prevalence of high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
While age was a major risk factor, data also found women had a 48 per cent chance of developing one of the health conditions, while men had a 36 per cent chance. Women are more likely to develop dementia before men, although men are at greater risk of suffering a stroke at a young age than women. Still, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with both dementia and stroke in their lifetime.
Delaying the onset of dementia, stroke and Parkinson’s by up to three years can reduce the lifetime risk by 20 per cent in 45 year olds and 50 per cent in people aged over 85, researchers suggest. This could be achieved by implementing preventive strategies.
While alarming, researchers note the study is observational and more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions. Still, they say more can be done to prevent the three conditions.
“These findings strengthen the call for prioritising the focus on preventive interventions at population level which could substantially reduce the burden of common neurological diseases in the ageing population,” researchers wrote.