Understanding how our lifestyle behaviours affect dementia
Dr Michael Wheeler aims to understand how different patterns of physical activity and sedentary behaviour influence known risk factors for dementia.
It’s estimated that the number of people with dementia is set to more than double to 1.1 million people by 2058, and this comes with a huge health and economic burden to society.
Executive Dean of Health Research Fellow Dr Michael Wheeler is working to develop a better understanding of how different patterns of physical activity and sedentary behaviour influence known risk factors for dementia, such as high blood pressure regulation, type 2 diabetes and depression.
“Around 40 per cent of dementia risk can be explained through modifiable risk factors,” Dr Wheeler said.
“If we can understand what aspects of our lives affect these risk factors and how they increase dementia risk, we can design targeted interventions that may delay or prevent the onset of dementia.”
The first phase of Dr Wheeler’s research involves a combination of observational studies to understand patterns of behaviour in the real word. The second phase will attempt to use that knowledge to design tailored interventions to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
“This project will help us understand how our environment affects our behaviour and what this means for dementia risk,” Dr Wheeler said.
“Environments such as workplaces are changing and we don’t know how these changes might impact a person’s risk for developing dementia.”
Dr Wheeler hopes his work will provide the necessary evidence to make decisions about how we structure our day in a way that is best for health, rather than what is most convenient.
“Ultimately, I’d like this work to build into a program of research that eventually allows us to tailor interventions for people in specific environments where they spend the most time, based on evidence that we know will reduce their dementia risk,” he said.