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Learn how to reduce your risk of dementia

Lifestyle Solutions for Ageing Population

AGEING AND NEURODEGENERATION
Lifestyle Solutions for Ageing Population
PROFESSOR KAARIN ANSTEY

Professor Kaarin Anstey joined NeuRA in January 2018 to lead an innovative multi-disciplinary team addressing ageing research with a focus on vital community lifestyle solutions around dementia in the Australian community.

Professor Anstey’s team will be working to expand her research programs on the epidemiology of cognition and dementia. The research will focus on identifying lifestyle, brain,and biological risk factors that lead to cognitive decline, and the impact of cognitive ageing on everyday function.

By 2053, 21 per cent of the Australian population will be aged 65 and over and 4.2 per cent aged 85 and over. This unprecedented demographic shift will result in dramatic changes in the need for health and care services. It highlights a critical need for preventive health approaches and interventions to enable older adults to retain their independence. Of those aged 65 and over, 20-25 per cent will have some degree of cognitive impairment, with 5-7 per cent developing dementia.

Professor Anstey believes research can improve how people age through preventive health strategies, the use of technology, and specific skill training. Using psychological and population health approaches, her research programs focus on cognitive ageing and decisionmaking, interventions to reduce the risk of dementia, interventions to improve driving skill, and longitudinal studies of health and ageing.

Over the next five years, Professor Anstey’s research will focus on four key areas including the development of a global research network for dementia prevention and building the evidence base on risk and protective factors for cognitive decline and dementia. She will also research physical and mental resilience in ageing, how cognitive decline impacts on decision-making, and how to keep older drivers on the road for longer, keeping them safer and more independent.

Identifying why some people do not develop cognitive decline and dementia is as important as identifying what places others at risk. Professor Anstey leads a unique Australian cohort study called the PATH Through Life Project. The study has followed young, middle-aged and older adults for 17 years. Through regular assessments, Professor Anstey’s team is discovering risk and protective factors for cognitive decline and dementia in Australians including genetic, lifestyle, medical and psychosocial factors.

As the oldest cohort is now in their late 70s, Anstey’s team are also evaluating how they are accessing aged care services and the impact of cognitive decline on productive ageing. Anstey is also the lead investigator on the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cognitive Health and within this program her team is currently in the final stages of a trial that is evaluating three approaches to reducing the risk of dementia in primary care.

Adults with chronic diseases who would benefit from a lifestyle management program have been randomly allocated to one of three conditions – a weekly email containing information about healthy lifestyle and dementia; a series of lectures about lifestyle modification which is run as a program in practices as usual care, and a dementia-specific program called Body-Brain- Life. Body-Brain-Life involves personalised exercise and diet programs provided by a dietician and exercise physiologist, and online educational modules which assist with personal goal setting.

Building on these initial programs, Professor Anstey’s team is in the planning phase of a series of new interventions that incorporate far more up-to-date findings and utilise advances in methodologies and technology. The aim is to make dementia risk reduction interventions as cost effective as possible and tailored to different groups.

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