Prevention of dementia in an ageing world: Evidence and biological rationale

Ageing Res Rev. 2020 Dec:64:101045. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2020.101045. Epub 2020 Mar 19.


As the population ages, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase in the coming decades, with consequences at the societal and individual levels. In this narrative review, we provide a summary of the scientific evidence concerning dementia prevention, with a focus on the following three strategies: 1) Targeting the body to protect the brain, including prevention and treatment of cardiovascular morbidity; 2) Compensatory interventions to counteract brain ageing, including education and life-long engagement in cognitively and socially stimulating activities; and 3) Lifespan health promotion, such as a physically active lifestyle, smoking cessation, and a healthy and balanced diet. Next, we consider the biological mechanisms by which these strategies may act by taking into account the main pathways implicated in the development and progression of dementia: neurodegeneration, brain resilience, vascular damage, neuroinflammation, and oxidative stress. Based on the current evidence, and in line with the declining trends of dementia incidence in high-income countries, we conclude that timely multidomain preventive actions are promising strategies to reduce the dementia epidemic worldwide. There is still a considerable gap between the epidemiological evidence and its underlying biological mechanisms. Filling this gap will be crucial to move forward in dementia prevention worldwide.

Keywords: Biological mechanisms; Dementia; Prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Brain
  • Dementia* / epidemiology
  • Dementia* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Style