Colleen E. Jackson, M.S., a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Connecticut, and colleagues conducted an anonymous online survey of 690 adults to measure “dementia literacy,” that is, their knowledge and beliefs that may assist in the recognition, management, or prevention of Alzheimer’s.
Mean age of the population was 50 years, the range was 30-85 years; 76% of respondents were female. Ninety-four percent (94%) of participants were from the United States, with the remaining 6% from other English-speaking countries. The sample was relatively wealthy, with 18% of respondents making more than $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.
The researchers found that 64% of study participants incorrectly indicated no association between Alzheimer’s and obesity or high blood pressure. Sixty-six percent (66%) did not know that high stress is a risk factor for dementia, and 34% did not know that physical exercise is a protective factor.
On the positive side, nearly all study participants (94%) correctly indicated that Alzheimer’s is not normal aging, and is not completely based on genetics.
“Our data suggest that American adults have limited knowledge and a poor understanding of factors that have been demonstrated to increase risk for Alzheimer’s, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and other heart health risk factors,” Jackson said. “They also didn’t know much about protective factors against Alzheimer’s, such as physical exercise, relative to the strength of the available research evidence.”
“We need more education programs and opportunities, across all demographic groups, focusing on behaviors that modify your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease,” Jackson added.