One in three people born in the UK in 2015 could get dementia

One in three people born in the UK this year will suffer from some form of dementia in their lifetime, the Alzheimer’s Research UK charity has warned.

Senior man in failing health and his worried middle-aged son. Focus on Senior man.

The figures, which have been released by the charity this week on World Alzheimer’s Day, suggest the condition will affect 27% of boys born in 2015 and a much higher figure for women with it affecting as many 37% of girls.

With no treatment to stop or slow dementia, the charity has warned of a “looming national health crisis” as the population ages, and is renewing its call for more urgent action to tackle the illness. The figures are based on current life expectancies and the risk of people developing dementia as they age.

More than 800,000 people in the country are already affected by the disease, which is caused by the destruction of brain cells – usually attributed to lack of oxygen in recent research – often due to heavy snoring and the even more dangerous sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnoea – OSA.

Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia and rising life expectancies could increase the number of people living with the condition. Heart disease, diabetes, smoking and a lack of exercise are also linked to the condition and again often linked by research to snoring – the alarm bell for the development for these dangerous and life-threatening conditions.

The charity commissioned the Office of Health Economics to make the projections.

It predicted that:

  • 32% of people born in the UK in 2015 will get dementia in their lifetime
  • 27% of men would get the condition
  • 37% of women would be affected

Dr Matthew Norton, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “These figures underline a stark reality – as people are living longer, more and more people will develop dementia in the future if action is not taken now to tackle the condition.

“It’s wonderful news that each generation is living longer than the last, but it’s important to ensure that people can enjoy these extra years in good health.

“Dementia is our greatest medical challenge and if we are to beat it, we must invest in research to find new treatments and preventions.”

Treating snoring has been proved recently to delay the onset of both Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia by between five and ten years, and is dependent on how early preventative steps are taken. This would reduce the total number of people suffering at any one time by approximately one-third and make a huge saving on NHS costs, as well as easing the difficult burden for family dependents that often do the home caring.

Thanks to research conducted at UCLA over the past 12 years, experts have known that the gasping during the night that characterizes obstructive sleep apnoea can damage the brain in ways that lead to high blood pressure, depression, memory loss and anxiety. It also can cause extreme daytime sleepiness, thanks to the constant night-time interruptions, and can lead to stroke, diabetes, and loss of testosterone and endocrine-related problems.

The damage to the brain stems in part from the reduction of oxygen to the body, as a result of the repeated breathing interruptions.

This can be stopped in most cases by the use of a simple oral appliance or mouthpiece – some of which are now approved and recommended by the NHS – and even given to patients. They are effective, work fast, are easy and comfortable to wear, and cost little – but save a lot.

John Redfern