How does Denmark prevent dementia?

Although Denmark has the highest living standard in Europe, the elderly still suffer from dementia. But recently, the incidence has decreased. How did they do that?

Denmark has one of the best health care systems in the world, but dementia is the fifth leading cause of death in the world. On average every three hours a Danish person dies of dementia and the disease damages society more than DKK 20 billion ($ 3.16 billion) a year.

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However, according to the Danish health authorities, in Copenhagen alone, the proportion of people over the age of 65 with signs of memory decline decreased from 4.1% in 2007 to 3.6% in 2016. The rate of people suffering from the disease also decreased from 1.2% in 2013 to 1% in 2015.

5 tips to reduce the risk of dementia

Currently in Denmark there are about 70,000 to 85,000 people with dementia and about 400,000 people living with a loved one with dementia, while the population is only 5.7 million and is aging. That is not to mention those who live in nursing homes.

According to Professor Gunhild Waldemar, director of the Center for the Study of Dementia in Denmark, it is fully capable of preventing this disease. Experts at the Danish Center for the Study of Dementia, the Danish Alzheimer Center and Deakin University in the United States have given five tips to reduce the risk of dementia:

1. Keep your mind active, learn and get your knowledge throughout life. The more frequent the brain is, the stronger our brain is. Activation of the brain reduces the risk of memory loss.

2. Live socially and actively communicate with people around to stimulate the brain to function. In communication, people will hear others talk and the brain will react.

3. Move regularly. Middle-aged and older people need movement, from walking, cycling, exercising to doing housework. The movement contributes to help blood circulation, avoid blood vessel blockage or brain hypoxia.

4. Quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake and follow a healthy diet. Smoking for many years increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 70-80%. A diet rich in whole grains, vegetable oils and green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and cabbage also significantly reduces the risk of dementia.

5. Control your blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels regularly. Stress also increases the risk of memory loss.

Initiative against dementia

Also in March 2018, the Danish Ministry of Health announced a white paper on dementia, in English, introducing treatments for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.

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One of the very effective initiatives is the "Demensven" association of the Danish Elderly Organization. Through a tailored application, Demensven connects people with dementia and their relatives and friends to volunteers in the area. The volunteers are equipped with knowledge about dementia and how to care for the sick.

With the help of local authorities and volunteers, the association regularly hosts "coffee breaks" for patients and their relatives. In these meetings, people are talking, dancing, singing, activities that stimulate the brain of the sick person to be more active through stimulating memory, doing exercise, physical activities, walking in good weather.

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In 2012, the group set up a group called "Cycling without age", cyclists volunteered to ride the sick around. "Cycling without age" was available in 70/98 administrative areas in Denmark with 400 cyclo and 4,000 volunteers. This initiative has rapidly spread to England, Scotland, Italy, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States, and has now been adopted in 37 countries.

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The white paper also mentions the ancillary facilities to help patients live in nursing homes, such as wearing a GPS device in the hands of the ill person for easy identification if straying, installing a lamp in accordance with the circadian rhythms and sticking the patient's image in front of the room so they can get into their room.

By: Oralie Smith

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