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An app to reduce the risk of dementia

Dementia elderly lady with elderly man

A £2.9m NIHR grant supported the development of an app to help reduce the risk of dementia.

Published: 14 May 2024

Preventing dementia through lifestyle changes

The risk for developing dementia increases with age and is increased further by factors including:

  • poor education
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • diabetes
  • hearing loss
  • depression
  • social isolation
  • physical inactivity
  • obesity

Research has shown the possibility of preventing up to 40% of people developing dementia by addressing these risk factors.

Researchers at UCL are developing an app, known as ENHANCE (TailorEd iNtervention for brain HeAlth aNd Cognitive Enrichment), to help people with risk factors for dementia to make positive changes to their lifestyle and health.

The app contains interventions to address the risk factors, using games, videos and coaches to motivate participants to change their behaviour. It will include features that help to encourage people to use it and provide positive reinforcement for making changes.

One feature is the opportunity for users to grow a virtual meadow, which grows when a positive lifestyle change is made, such as healthier eating, and positively reinforces the user to continue making changes. The aim is to help individuals try and improve their risk factor profile via these behavioural changes.

Helping reach the dementia research community

With support from the NIHR Dementia Translational Research Collaboration (TRC), researchers at UCL were able to network with other TRC members in dementia research.

Louise Allan, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Exeter University said: “The NIHR Dementia TRC enabled member universities to link in with each other and support the development of the grant application.” 

The app is currently in the initial stages of development and has been tested with potential users, such as people with risk factors for dementia.

The next phase will involve a feasibility trial to determine the practicalities and usefulness of the app. If that proves successful, the research team will then conduct a randomised controlled trial to assess whether ENHANCE can improve cognition and prevent dementia in the long-term.

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