In collaboration with the Luxembourg Center for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Ministry of Health took measures to help people efficiently reduce their risk of dementia, through the Dementia Prevention Program (pdp).
Statistics tell us that our life expectancy is increasing. But the older we become, the greater we are at risk of developing some form of dementia. “The goal of the programme for dementia prevention, pdp, is to reduce the risk of dementia in as many people as possible” Minister of Health Lydia Mutsch says about the new approach pdp is now pursuing in Luxembourg.
In 2017, the publication of scientific results on ways to prevent dementia, have given the programme a tremendous boost: risk factors for dementia can be selectively influenced and reduced. In cooperation with the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Ministry of Health has therefore taken measures to ensure more people can effectively reduce their risk of dementia with the help of pdp.
pdp: preventing or delaying dementia
Don’t we all wonder, from time to time, whether our forgetfulness doesn’t go beyond an entirely normal, occasional lack of concentration? Wonder why we are having such trouble following a conversation among several people? Is that normal? Or is there a threat of minor cognitive impairment, which might one day turn into dementia?
For those who do in fact suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), there is cause for hope: last year, an eminent international expert committee published an assessment of the current body of studies on dementia. Their evaluation concludes: One can prevent, or at least delay, the onset of dementia. “Thanks to this study, we now know very precisely which risk factors favour dementia,” says Dr. Rejko Krüger from the LCSB. “These include obesity, high blood pressure, depression, hearing loss, poorly controlled diabetes, and even smoking, social isolation and lack of exercise,” Krüger reports. Together with his team, the neurologist and professor of neuroscience at LCSB coordinates the Programme for Dementia Prevention.
People who are suspected of mild cognitive impairment and who show the signs of an elevated risk factor can be referred by their doctor to the Programme for Dementia Prevention, pdp. There, they will be carefully assessed in order to create a personal cognitive profile by taking specific memory, attention and speech tests. Neuropsychologists also create a risk profile: How physically fit is the patient? How good can the patient hear? Is he or she of normal weight? With these and many other questions, the individual risk profile is calculated from the number and type of existing risk factors.
These risk factors are then analysed to suggest concrete measures: for people who should increase their physical activity, perhaps going to a fitness centre is the right thing to do. Those who need to lose weight may be helped with dietary recommendations, or with a cooking class on how to make healthy Mediterranean dishes. Such a course can also prevent social isolation. In others still, MCI can be countered by targeted memory training or by a suitable hearing aid.
A collaborative effort for a personalized method
Thus, pdp offers many opportunities for getting the risk factors for dementia under control. This also includes intensive cooperation with the treating doctor, as Professor Krüger emphasises: “We inform the doctors about the type and degree of the dementia risk factors we have identified in their patients. The doctors can then adjust their treatments, for diabetes or high blood pressure for example, following our findings.” This cooperative approach is essential for developing an effective and personalised prevention programme for each patient, Krüger asserts.
The pdp experts are not only in contact with the treating doctors, but also with the partners who provide the courses and social activities. Their feedback on how the pdp recommendations are being followed is vital. The pdp team also keeps in touch with the participants, encouraging them to take the suggested measures to reduce their risk of dementia. “Physical activity and improved stamina help to become mentally fit again,” Krüger says. Minister of Health Lydia Mutsch is also confident: “pdp is an excellent tool that allows people to effectively work on their risk of dementia on scientific basis. Every case of dementia we can prevent with pdp is a wonderful success!”