Preventing age-related illness
It is becoming increasingly clear that, throughout our lives, we continuously influence not only how long we live,
but also how we age. Identifying which factors have the greatest influence – and can be changed – is therefore an important part of the research.
Based on data from large population groups, our researchers have built up unique databases of medical, social, psychological, functional and biological information. These are used to develop a deeper understanding of the natural ageing process and of the risk and protective factors for different diseases. A major study from Karolinska Institutet was recently the first in the world to demonstrate the real possibility of preventing memory disorders through a combination of dietary advice, physical exercise, cognitive training and the control of risk factors like blood pressure and blood lipids.
Karolinska Institutet also houses a strong research cluster specialising in the biological side of dementia-related diseases. For instance, scientists are sing advanced techniques to monitor the progress of Alzheimer’s disease with the goal of producing effective drugs that can halt or prevent its development. It is also the responsibility of such research to find tools for enhancing life quality even when bodily functions are weakened and the need for care increases.
We need a new combination of disciplines in order to include psychosocial perspectives in medical research, take on the challenges of multi-morbidity and pave the way for technical innovations that reduce the functional losses associated with ageing.
"The research we are doing today is immediately applicable to patients and to public health. By combining our expertise, we will in the future be able to help people enjoy better quality of life into old age. We live longer, healthier lives than ever before, and dementia-free ageing is no longer just a dream.”
Rapidly changing demographics with steadily rising life-expectancy present a huge challenge to society in many respects. Age-related diseases and functional losses, such as physical disability, memory loss and dementia, affect not only patients but also their families. Today, some 25,000 people in Sweden develop dementia every year.
At the same time, people expect to maintain a high quality of life into very old age and that the functional losses that occur will have minimal consequences for individuals and society.