Researchers will examine why people living in rural and regional areas are three to five times more likely to develop dementia than their city dwelling counterparts and what can be done to reverse this trend – thanks to a grant from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.
The Dementia Australia Research Foundation today announced funding for 18 projects in the 2022 Grants Program, worth $2.4 million in total.
Dr Ashleigh Smith from the University of South Australia (UniSA) said the Mid-Career Research Fellowship, worth $365,000, would enable her team to create dementia prevention strategies specifically tailored for rural and regional communities.
“We know there are 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia including smoking, diet, exercise and social isolation and we have collected good data on how these risk factors impact people living in Australian cities,” Dr Smith said.
“This Fellowship will enable us to go to regional and rural areas to collect data around these risk factors.”
Dr Smith said later parts of the project will utilise UniSA’s rural campuses to partner with the communities of Mt Gambier, Whyalla and Port Lincoln in South Australia to design targeted, culturally and geographically appropriate, and sustainable dementia prevention strategies and co-design a bespoke dementia prevention toolkit for use in rural communities.
“People living in rural and regional communities don’t want city-based solutions. By co-designing the toolkit with people living in rural and regional communities, we will ensure the toolkit is acceptable and aimed at extending healthy life and delaying dementia onset in Australians who live outside major cities.”
Dr Alby Elias from The University of Melbourne will lead a study examining whether intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to a $75,000 Project Grant.
Intermittent fasting, or time restricted eating involves not eating any food for periods of between 12 and 24 hours between meals. It has been shown to have several health benefits, including improved blood vessel health and reduced inflammation.
“Intermittent fasting also has a range of benefits for several health conditions, including obesity, arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. But so far no human studies have been conducted looking at fasting and Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Elias said.
“Animal studies have demonstrated that intermittent fasting was associated with removal of the beta-amyloid protein from the brain, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr Elias said the first step was to work with clinicians and people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease to design a trial that was safe and achievable for participants.
The Chair of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, congratulated all successful 2022 grant recipients.
“The diversity of projects selected shows we have a very exciting future for dementia research,” Professor Samuel said.
“With dementia affecting almost 50 million people worldwide, research into dementia is now more urgent than ever.”
The Dementia Australia Research Foundation acknowledges the generosity of donors who contribute each and every year to support dementia research and the grants program.
Since the Dementia Grants Program started in 2000, almost $30 million in funding has supported more than 350 projects.
Meanwhile, Flinders University researchers have been awarded a total of $225,000 in grants from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation to support projects that aim to help people with dementia and their caregivers.
Dr Miia Rahja from the College of Medicine and Public Health has been awarded the Lucas’ Pawpaw Remedies Project Grant worth $75,000.
Her team aims to create an evidence-based program that will help care supporters engage meaningfully with loved ones with dementia living in residential aged care homes.
They plan to adapt a community-based program that helps loved ones communicate with people living with dementia and involve them in suitable activities.
Dr Suzanne Dawson from the Caring Futures Institute has been awarded the Hazel Hawke Research Grant in Dementia Care worth $75,000.
Her study will examine the effectiveness of weighted blankets as a safe sleep intervention for people with dementia experiencing sleep disturbances.
The use of weighted blankets is emerging as a safe sleep intervention option, although little is known about their effectiveness for people with dementia.
Thanks to the Bondi2Barossa project grant funding worth $75,000, Dr Kristie Stefanoska will increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease development.
Her study aims to investigate how tau-induced brain cell death contributes to cognitive decline. Scientists are seeking to unravel why the toxic clumping of a brain protein called tau is underlying in Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr Stefanoska’s team aims to increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease development.
Sleep disturbances in people with dementia result in decreased quality of life and significant stress for caregivers.
Dr Dawson’s study aims to address this major challenge through safe sleep intervention options. If successful, weighted blankets could be an easily implemented intervention to improve sleep outcomes and quality of life for people living with dementia.
These three studies funded by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation demonstrate Flinders University researchers’ commitment to improving the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. Their research efforts aim to develop effective interventions, increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease development, and promote meaningful engagement between loved ones with dementia and their caregivers.
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