It’s time to join the dementia revolution

Posted by Heather Doggett on 30 August 2019

I was listening to Chris Evans on Virgin Radio on the way in to work.  He was discussing the Dementia Revolution: a year long, joint campaign between the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK to power ground-breaking dementia research, overthrow old attitudes and lead the charge towards a cure.  Dame Barbara Windsor – who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 – and her husband Scott Mitchell, as Ambassadors of the Alzheimer’s Society, have very much led the charge with an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for a £2.4 billion dementia fund as part of the ‘fix dementia care’ campaign.

The figures from the Office of National Statistics published on 9th August this year make for stark reading – one in eight deaths was attributed to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 2018; Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were the leading causes of deaths among females, and whilst heart diseases were the leading causes of death among males, dementia and Alzheimer’s were the second biggest cause of death and, indeed, was the leading cause in men aged over 80 years old.

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive conditions affecting the brain. There are over 200 subtypes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.  The brain is made up of nerve cells (neurones) that communicate with each other by sending messages. Dementia damages the nerve cells in the brain so that messages can’t be sent to and from the brain effectively, which prevents the body from functioning normally.

If you are concerned about your own memory, or you are worried about changes you have noticed with memory, communication, personality or behaviour of someone close to you, it is important to consult a GP as soon as possible.

What are the possible signs and symptoms that may indicate a person could have dementia?

 A change in:

  • short term memory
  • thought processes
  • concentration level
  • communication, comprehension and word finding
  • motivation level
  • ability to perform everyday tasks
  • personality, mood, behaviour or social functioning

All these signs and symptoms may be due to potentially treatable causes, so it should never be assumed that one or more of these signs and symptoms is definitely an indication of dementia.

Reducing the risk of dementia

Although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows that there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk. These include keeping active, eating healthily and exercising your mind – remember use it or lose it.  Stopping smoking and reducing alcohol will help reduce the risk of dementia.

Risk factors you cannot change include age – over the age of 65 a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia doubles roughly every five years.  Genes – there are more than 20 genes known to increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.  Sex – Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men; Men are at slightly higher risk of vascular dementia. For most other forms of dementia, women and men have much the same risk.  Ethnic origin – there is some evidence that people from certain ethnic communities are at higher risk of dementia than others.

For further comprehensive information, I would strongly recommend looking at the Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Dementia UK websites.

‘Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. It is the only leading cause of death that we can’t cure, prevent or slow down.’

ALISON LAMBERT
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH ADVISOR