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New study finds link between lack of height and dementia

ByJoshua Stein

Nov 11, 2014

Lower than average height could be a warning sign for dementia in later life, according to the results of a new study.

The study, conducted by the University of Edinburgh, the University of Sydney and University College London, concluded that the link was stronger in men than in women.

It combined the results of 18 surveys, encompassing 180,000 people across the UK.

At the G8 dementia summit last year, politicians pledged to “strengthen efforts to stimulate and harness innovation and to catalyse investment at the global level”.

Leading politicians suggested a dementia cure would be possible by 2025, with the UK government promising an increase in research capital to £132m by 2025.

The scientists, led by Dr. Tom Russ, from the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, suggested that dementia could develop early on in life.

The report highlighted vaccination programmes and breakfast clubs as ways to avoid early dementia developments.

In an interview with The Student, Dr. Russ said dementia was a “disease of the whole life course and it is plausible that early life factors might also be relevant”.

He continued, “But there are no studies of significant length to directly show an association between parameters in early life and later dementia.

This is where height comes in […] the corollary of our findings is that prevention initiatives must begin early enough in life to be effective – and it looks like we have to begin at the very beginning of life”.

Dr. Russ recommended an early stress on nutrition and stress as methods to avoid dementia. Factors such as smoking and longstanding illness are also important to consider.

New voluntary screening for dementia was introduced into the UK last week.

Factors like alcohol consumption and exercise habits will help doctors determine the “brain age” of a patient, and thus their susceptibility to dementia.

This follows a move by the UK government last month in which GPs will be paid £55 for every diagnosis of dementia.

This was introduced to increase the UK diagnosis rate, with just half of dementia patients being diagnosed.

Dementia affects 36 million people worldwide, and currently impacts around 850,000 people in Britain, costing the UK around £26 million per year. These figures are expected to rise over the coming years.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Gavin Terry, policy manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said, “Dementia is one of the biggest health and social care challenges the UK faces.”

“For too long dementia has been wrongly seen by many clinicians as a natural part of ageing and, as such, have failed to record it as a cause of death. Increasing awareness of the condition has started to combat this”.

An online test, published by Dr. Vincent Fortanesce, from the University of Southern Carolina, last week is the latest attempt by professionals to make dementia screening more accessible.

The report was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

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