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A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows the role vascular diseases (such as stroke) and risk factors (such as smoking and obesity) can play in contributing to dementia.

'Dementia is a serious and growing health problem in Australia and many other countries, and previous AIHW reports have shown that dementia accounts for 3.4% of the total 'burden of disease' in Australia,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon.

Burden of disease is a way of analysing the impact of diseases and injuries in terms of the number of years of healthy life lost through living with an illness or injury, and the number of years of life lost through dying prematurely from an illness or injury.

'While there is no known cure, there are a range of potentially preventable factors that contribute to the risk of dementia,' Dr Moon said.

'These include several vascular diseases and risk factors, including stroke, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, as well as smoking, physical inactivity, high blood pressure in mid-life and obesity in mid-life.'

Today's report, Contribution of vascular diseases and risk factors to the burden of dementia in Australia: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011, shows that about 30% of the total dementia burden was due to vascular diseases and risk factors, with this proportion increasing with age.

'The risk factors included behaviours and metabolic risks, ' Dr Moon said.

The behavioural risk factor contributing most to the dementia burden was physical inactivity (contributing 8% of dementia burden), followed by tobacco use (5%).

'High blood pressure and obesity in mid-life were the two metabolic factors that contributed the greatest burden, at 6% each,' Dr Moon said.

Among vascular diseases that pose a risk, chronic kidney disease contributed the greatest burden (8%), followed by stroke (7%), diabetes (5%) and atrial fibrillation (5%)

Among people aged 65 and over, dementia is the second leading cause of total burden (almost 8%) and the leading cause of non-fatal burden (10%).

A second report, also released today, Diabetes and chronic kidney disease as risks for other diseases: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011, examines the impact of diabetes and chronic kidney disease on the burden of other diseases.

Canberra, 7 December 2016

Further information: Dr Lynelle Moon, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1235. mob. 0414 899 826

Full publication: Contribution of vascular diseases and risk factors to the burden of dementia in Australia: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011 

Full publication: Diabetes and chronic kidney disease as risks for other diseases: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011