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Close to 50% of dementia cases could be attributed to seven key modifiable lifestyle factors, according to a new report.

The report, released by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) in collaboration with Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), suggests midlife hypertension, diabetes, low educational attainment, smoking, physical inactivity, midlife obesity and depression could contribute to the disease.

The knowledge-base around the cause of dementia in the senior community varied greatly, raising the need for indepth dementia awareness workshops and community involvement, the findings of the report found.

“While some detrimental attributing factors to dementia such as smoking and alcohol consumption were known, other factors connected to cognitive health were unknown to over 95% of the sample population,” said CEPAR Chief Investigator and NHMRC Principle Research Fellow at NeuRA Professor Kaarin Anstey.

“This highlights the need for increased local community engagement and advocacy.”

More than 400,000 Australians live with dementia. This figure has been revised upwards from past projections. Dementia is the leading cause of disability among Australians over 65 and the second leading cause of death in Australia.

“Australia’s ageing population is leading to an increasing number of Australians with the disease which will further impact individuals, society and the economy over the next decade,” Professor Anstey said.

According to Professor Anstey, further investment into ageing research is required to identify more risk factors.

“We need to develop better diagnostic tests and assessments, increase community education to ensure risk factors attributed to dementia are better managed, and support carers to reduce carer distress in the broader community.”