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Is it grim up North?
Dementia: it’s difficult to think of a more pressing topic. But what do we really know about dementia and about the ways to prevent it? In this podcast, Tom tells us about his recent finding that people living in the North of the UK and Sweden are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop dementia than those living further South [note]Russ, T. C., Gatz, M., Pedersen, N. L., Hannah, J., Wyper, G., Batty, G. D., … & Starr, J. M. (2015). Geographical variation in dementia: examining the role of environmental factors in Sweden and Scotland. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.), 26(2), 263. [/note].
Why might this be the case? Tom explains that we have some good candidates to explore in more detail – for example, differences in exposure to Vitamin D and Selenium.
Differences in population
Tom’s research adds to findings linking differences between people living in rural or urban areas: previous studies have shown that people living in rural areas are more likely to develop dementia than those living in urban areas. On top of this, there are gender differences: women are more likely to develop dementia than men. But why is living in the “North” so influential on whether we develop dementia or not?
Taking a pragmatic approach
With dementia being something that many of us fear, it’s important that researchers look into the possible reasons for such differences, in order to suggest practical methods of reducing our risk.
For example, while asking everyone north of Carlisle to relocate further south may not be feasible, identifying a supplement that would be most useful for those living in the North is definitely something worth investigating.
About Tom Russ
Tom Russ is a Clinical Lecturer in Old Age Psychiatry in the Division of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh. He is a member of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences and Co-Director of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre hosted in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.