INDIANAPOLIS — Dementia is currently the seventh-leading cause of death worldwide.

Now, new research suggests unless action is taken immediately, the number of global cases may skyrocket in the coming years.

More than 57 million people are estimated to live with dementia worldwide. According to the latest projections detailed in The Lancet, more than 152 million cases worldwide are expected by the year 2050.

For the United States, the roughly five million current cases would be expected to double to about 10 million.

Much of the increase is attributed to population growth. However, researchers have also outlined smoking, obesity and high blood sugar as risk factors they say need to be addressed immediately.

Laura Forbes with the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter says it’s also important for people to realize that dementia should not be considered something that is a “normal” part of aging.

“One of the biggest misconceptions I would say that we face and that we try to dispel at the Alzheimer’s Association is so many people think it’s a normal part of aging and it absolutely isn’t. It’s a progressive and ultimately fatal disease. And it’s so difficult for the person with the disease, their caregiver and it really is a public health crisis,” Forbes said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Dementia is described as a “general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia,” While Forbes admits “prevention” isn’t a term experts use, she adds there are ways people can reduce their risk of being diagnosed.

“We do know that it reduces the risk to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We like to say what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. So, certainly that includes not smoking, exercising, maintaining a healthy diet. And there are other factors that are specific to brain health. One of those is being socially active, being mentally active, doing puzzles and really stimulating the brain can be one factor as well. Preventing head trauma by wearing a seatbelt or a helmet, preventing falls in the home. So, there are a number of lifestyle factors that can really help reduce the risk,” she said.

When it comes to lifestyle changes, Forbes adds it doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can take small steps, then slowly build up. Many of those steps (regular exercise, healthy diet) also have the benefit of helping to mitigate issues with heart disease which is the leading cause of death for Americans.