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How well does the Public Understand Alzheimer's Disease

Posted Jul 13 2009 11:35pm



Dementia literacy: Public understanding of known risk factors

Results:
  • Subjects showed a poor understanding of dementia's relationship with cardiovascular risk factors with 61% indicating no association between the disease and obesity or high blood pressure.
  • Sixty-six percent did not know that high stress is a risk factor for dementia.
  • 38% did not know that physical exercise was a protective factor against dementia.
  • Only half of respondents believe that AD reduces the lifespan.
  • More than 95% of subjects indicated that AD is different from normal aging, is not completely based on genetics, and is currently not curable.
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Dementia literacy: Public understanding of known risk factors

Colleen E. Jackson1, Peter J. Snyder2, Kathryn V. Papp1, Jennifer Bartkowiak1
1University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA; 2Lifespan Hospital System & Brown Medical School, Providence, RI, USA.

Contact e-mail: colleen.e.jackson@gmail.com

Background: An increasing aging population and therefore increasing prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders is creating a large healthcare burden. Accurate public knowledge regarding dementia may facilitate research recruitment, promote lifestyle changes, and facilitate effective care. The goal of this study was to measure dementia literacy: knowledge and beliefs that may assist in the recognition, management, r prevention of Alzheimer's Disease in an English-speaking population.

Methods: An anonymous online survey of 676 adults (mean=50 yrs; SD=12; range:30-85 years; 24% male) were tested for dementia literacy. Ninety-four percent of participants were from the United States with the remaining 6% from English-speaking countries. The sample was relatively wealthy, with 18% of respondents making over $200,000 per year at the peak of their careers, and well-educated, with 87% of respondents having completed at least 1-3 years of college.

Results: Subjects showed a poor understanding of dementia's relationship with cardiovascular risk factors with 61% indicating no association between the disease and obesity or high blood pressure. Sixty-six percent did not know that high stress is a risk factor for dementia and 38% did not know that physical exercise was a protective factor. Only half of respondents believe that AD reduces the lifespan. However, more than 95% of subjects indicated that AD is different from normal aging, is not completely based on genetics, and is currently not curable.

Conclusions: The majority of subjects recognized that dementia risk is mediated by several lifestyle and genetic factors, however the influence of some is over- or under-rated relative to the strength of available research evidence. Participants' "dementia literacy" will be related to specific individual variables (e.g., age, education, socioeconomic status) as well as their willingness to participate in clinical trials.
Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 700 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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