Dementia affects around 50 million people worldwide and there are 10 million new cases every year.
Worse yet, the number of people with dementia is projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050
“Although you can’t avoid getting dementia, there are a number of risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing some types of the condition,” says Paulette Winchester-Joseph, who is the deputy clinical lead for the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline at Dementia UK.
“These risk factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type two diabetes, obesity and heart problems, can cause damage to the blood vessels in the brain and increase a person’s risk of vascular dementia.
“There’s also significant evidence to suggest that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.
“Therefore, it’s recommended to eat a healthy balanced diet and keep up regular exercise to help lower the risk of vascular dementia.
“But it’s important to consult a GP as soon as possible if you’re concerned about your memory, or are worried about changes in the memory, personality or behaviour of someone close to you.
“Looking after yourself when you care for someone with symptoms of dementia, including a decline in memory, communication skills, and the ability to think and reason clearly, is also very important.
“Make sure you don’t neglect your own physical and mental health needs and try to lower the risk factors mentioned above for yourself too.
“Have regular breaks and accept any support that is offered from family and friends. This could help you cope better with your caring role and improve the quality of life for both you and the person you care for.”
Dementia information & advice
Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline: 0800 888 6678 or go to dementiauk.org
8 ways to reduce the risk
- Drink green tea – According to the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP), new research suggests drinking green tea could reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment.
- Take a supplement – Pukka’s organic Brainwave capsules have been formulated by herbalist and Ayurvedic practitioner Sebastian Pole to improve cognitive function and support brain health. The herbs in this powerful formula have been chosen for their ability to boost circulation to the brain, improve memory and mental clarity, and provide protective antioxidant activity.
- Laugh out loud (for 20 minutes every day) – “Laughter increases intake of air, stimulates blood circulation and makes the brain release endorphins, which are our natural painkillers,” says Dr Dimitrios Paschos, Consultant Psychiatrist at Re: Cognition Health. “In the long-term it improves mood, lessens stress and helps us connect with other people. The more we laugh, the more our brain is engaged.”
- Dance – studies have shown that the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced by exercises such as dancing. “Not only is it fun, social and engaging but it’s a great way of incorporating exercise into your weekly routine,” says Dr MacSweeney of Re: Cognition Health. “Learning and remembering new steps activates many neural pathways in the brain, keeping it strong, active and healthy.”
- Get social – Socialising and maintaining friendships can help to reduce anxiety and depression and improve cognitive sharpness and performance at every stage of life and can also help reduce the risk of dementia. A 2007 study published in in the American Journal of Public Health looked at over 2200 women in the US, finding that older women with large social networks were 26% less likely to develop dementia than those with smaller social networks.
- Take up an instrument – A recent study, conducted on 157 pairs of twins found that even learning a musical instrument, for the first time, in adult life can help reduce the risk of dementia.
- Give your brain a workout – “Stop the reliance upon smart phones and give your brain a workout!” says Dr MacSweeney. “Our brain is a muscle and just like the body it needs to be exercised to be strong, fit and performing at an optimum level.“ Hint: Try solving a maths problem without the calculator next time!
- Sleep – Research is indicating that sleep is a powerful weapon in protecting against Alzheimer’s disease. “When we sleep, our brains clear away plaques, proteins and toxins that have built up over the day,” says Dr MacSweeney. Amyloid proteins are understood to be waste from energy the brain uses when communicating, which is swept out during deep sleep.
Carers might like…
Due to be released on 30 September, is Dr Esther Ramsay-Jones’ book ‘Holding Time – Human Need and Relationships in Dementia Care.
Written from first-hand, personal and professional experience of dementia and other long-term conditions, Holding Time is a contemporary exploration of the dementia care field, and is designed to help improve the care of those living (and working) with dementia.
The book is available at amazon.co.uk
If you or someone close to you is living with dementia, joining an inclusive walking group can you to make new friends and forge links with the local community.
“Walking in the local community has helped to evoke memories for the residents which encourages meaningful conversations,” says Cathy Togneri of Beechwood Care Home in Wishaw, which runs ‘Beechwood Health Walk Group’.
“Staff and residents have forged stronger bonds by sharing experiences and reminiscing about important life events.
“The walks have had a substantial impact on minimising stress and have positively influenced residents by reducing anxiety and depression and improving their overall mood.”
The Beechwood Health Walk Group has recently been nominated for an award in the Celebrating Scotland’s Walking Champions roll of honour run by Scotland’s national walking charity, Paths for All.