WHERE you live can be a major factor in lowering your chances of dementia - but it is about far more than the regional-metropolitan divide.
People who live in more affluent suburbs, including those in regional cities, have superior memory function, a new Monash University study has found.
Access to green space, healthy food and public places to exercise were key factors the study's lead author Matthew Pase said needed to be put in the government spotlight to help slow risks for preventable forms of dementia.
Associate Professor Pase said regional centres had benefits of often cleaner air and strong community social engagement, compared to some metropolitan regions, but the study still highlighted the need for better facilities to promote healthier lifestyles in more disadvantaged areas.
From a government perspective, we need to be calling for better equality in access and opportunities, regardless of where we live.- Associate Professor Matthew Pase, Monash University
"There might be access to green space but if you don't feel safe you might not go for a walk in the neighbourhood after dinner...It is a complex issue," Associate Professor Pase said.
"From a government perspective, we need to be calling for better equality in access and opportunities, regardless of where we live. As researchers, we also have to do better to include people from diverse areas into our research, those who are most vulnerable, to make sure they are represented."
Dementia Australia describes dementia as a large group of illnesses that cause a progressive decline in a person's functioning and is most common in people aged 65-plus.
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Associate Professor Pase said up to 40 per cent of dementia cases could be preventable and more research was needed to better understand barriers to prevention options at a community level, particularly in low-socioeconomic areas.
He said a lot might seem like common sense - eating healthy, exercise and good sleep - but such issues were actually far more complex.
It's also never too early to take ownership of your health. Studies are showing what you do in mid-life can have an impact on how you age.- Associate Professor Matthew Pase
"It's also never too early to take ownership of your health," Associate Professor Pase said. "Studies are showing what you do in mid-life can have an impact on how you age. If you're in your 40s you can start implementing these things.
"... "With dementia predicted to cost Australia more than $18.7 billion in 2025, it is important that everyone has the same opportunity to take ownership of their health."
Associate Professor Pase is also involved in research for a Monash University study on how health and lifestyle factors can influence a person's brain for 40 years into the future. The BACH (Brain and Cognitive Health) cohort study is seeking volunteers aged 55 to 80 to follow their brain health as they age.
For more details: bachcohortstudy.com.
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