The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK has encouraged people to take more care of their brains, after raising concerns that most people are not doing enough to mitigate against the chances of developing dementia in later life.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that affects over 520,000 people in the UK. This number is set to rise as we have an ageing population. Although the condition is progressive and is not an inevitable consequence of getting older, age is one of the biggest risk factors.
Alzheimer’s Research UK have identified 12 steps that people can take to help lower their risk of developing dementia, the BBC reports. Although some people will develop dementia regardless of their lifestyle, researchers believe that looking after your brain health can delay or even prevent the onset of the disease.
Professor Jonathan Schott, chief medical officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“There are some people who are (genetically) destined to develop dementia, but we know now that up to 40 per cent of worldwide dementia risk is potentially modifiable. It’s vital that we do all that we can, as individuals and society, to reduce our risk.”
One of the measures that is important is to look after your hearing, because scientists believe that people with hearing loss tend to be less socially active, which can lead to a decline in cognitive functions.
Getting seven hours of sleep per night, staying socially active, eating well, and exercising regularly are all on the list, as is avoiding smoking and drinking in moderation. It is also advised to manage chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Dr Charles Marshall, clinical senior lecturer in dementia at Queen Mary University of London, told the BBC: “It’s important not to blame people for getting dementia. We need the same diagnostic process for dementia as for cancer, and that means redesigning services. We need to prepare now for delivering new treatments when they come.”
He added: “I think what we need to do is think about combining a sort of education approach where we teach people about what they can do to keep their brains healthy with also improved early detection and diagnosis so that we can give people personalised interventions as early as possible.”
“One example of this might be an updated NHS health check that includes a major brain health focus that can identify when people have these risk factors but also something where we can identify early warning signs of dementia.”
The advice is particularly aimed at people in their 40s and 50s, because this is seen as the optimum window for people to put themselves in a stronger position of health for older age. It is estimated that up to 40% of dementia cases could be prevented by following expert health advice.
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