Scope to lessen Indigenous dementia: study

·2-min read

More than half of Indigenous dementia cases in far north Queensland could be prevented after scientists identified a series of risk factors linked to the condition.

The James Cook University study found 11 risk factors contribute to up to 52 per cent of dementia cases in its sample population.

"Dementia is an emerging health issue among Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal peoples in Far North Queensland," lead researcher Fintan Thompson said.

"We thought it likely that historically recent exposure to modifiable risk factors was contributing, and that a large proportion of dementia could potentially be reduced or delayed."

Analysing health data from more than 370 First Nations people in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula, the research team identified risk factors that could be modified.

"The most important dementia risk factors are already public health priorities in this population. Risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and smoking were important contributors, which is somewhat similar to other populations," the report said.

The study suggests rates of dementia could decline if these risk factors were reduced at a population level.

The study also shows dementia risks in the Torres Strait region may be comparitively less certain.

"Risks, such as social isolation and heavy alcohol consumption, contributed less to dementia in the Torres Strait region, which is great news," Mr Thompson said.

Almost half a million Australians were estimated to have dementia in 2022, the study said, with the number projected to exceed one million by 2056.

National research indicates even a 5 per cent reduction in the annual incidence of this condition could save billions of dollars, it said.

The results make a clear case for government investment in preventative health, promotion and education to reduce the burden of dementia in the Torres Strait region, the study concluded.