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Dementia - taking care of your brain

Reducing The Risk of Dementia

As our population ages, dementia is increasingly emerging as a major health concern both for individuals and for society as a whole. It is a frightening and cruel condition that has the potential to do enormous harm both to the sufferer and to their loved ones who may face an increasing burden of care. 

Risk Factors For Developing Dementia

Dementia Brain

There are a large number of risk factors for developing dementia and although there are some, such as a history of the condition in the family, that you can do little about, you might be surprised to learn how many other risk factors you can actually change for yourself.


A growing body of evidence is telling us how we may avoid this condition and much of the evidence suggests that the key time to implement changes is between the ages of 45 and 65 if we want to reap the long term benefits of good cognitive function into old age (although clearly putting these changes in place earlier is also hugely beneficial). In fact, lifestyle factors are thought to account for about 40% of dementia cases.


Even if lifestyle changes won’t prevent all cases, because dementia is generally a condition of older age, anything we can do to delay the onset is also enormously helpful. Some modelling suggests that if all cases of dementia could be delayed by 5 years, then there would be half as many people living with the condition overall. 


In the UK the two most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia. The underlying cause of Vascular Dementia is the same as for cardiovascular diseases such as ischaemic heart disease and heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. Therefore, the same changes we try to make to prevent these other conditions, also reduce the risk of Vascular Dementia. As ever, the big one here is to stop smoking, but other important steps to take are to make sure your blood pressure is controlled, that your cholesterol levels are healthy, and that you address your risk of diabetes. 


Obesity


Obesity (defined as a BMI of over 30) is also an independent risk factor. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of dementia by 30% and this is before taking account of the fact that obesity will also raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of diabetes, both of which will further raise the risk of dementia. 


Lack of exercise


Being physically inactive is another risk factor  that is addressed fairly easily. The lives we lead are often inherently inactive with many adults in the UK spending over 9 hours every day sitting down – a number which rises in older age. Public Health England recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) across the week. Although this is only just over 20 minutes of moderate activity each day, NHS Digital tells us that in 2020 one third of people aged between 24 and 75 did not manage this level of activity, nearly half of people between 75 and 84, and over two thirds of people over 85. 


This is a major issue, not just from a dementia perspective, but from a physical and psychological health perspective too. In particular, exercise has also been proven to help prevent depression which many researchers also consider to be a risk factor for dementia. 


Excessive alcohol consumption


There is no evidence that drinking alcohol within recommended limits (currently 14 units per week in the UK) causes dementia, but there is evidence that consistently drinking more than 28 units of alcohol per week accelerates cognitive decline, and heavy drinking over a prolonged period can cause a range of different problems with cognitive function including Alcohol Related Dementia. 


Low cognitive activity


Lastly, the brain very much follows the principle of ‘use it or lose it’. In order to keep your mind healthy, you must keep stimulating it. This is important at all ages from childhood up, but one study showed that being mentally active between the ages of 45 and 65 reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by nearly half. Good ways to keep cognitively active include puzzles search as crosswords, card games, and arts and crafts activities. 


The above may sound like a lot but many of these risk factors are actually interlinked. By not smoking, drinking with recommended limits, and achieving the minimum level of recommended exercise, you would probably also address other recognized risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. Small changes can make a big difference. The earlier you make them, the better.


Common Symptoms of Dementia

Memory Loss

Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65 and impacts people in different ways. Different types of dementia also tend to affect people differently.

However, there are some common early signs and symptoms. These include:


  • Memory Loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems communicating
  • Misunderstanding what is being seen (e.g. judging distances)
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings or difficulty controlling emotions

 

Dementia Diagnoses


If you are worried about symptoms that may be dementia, go and speak to your GP. However if you don't have symptoms and are just looking to monitor the risks listed further up this article, then there are a number of blood tests available to help:



With the Ultimate Performance Blood Test, you gain invaluable insights into every aspect of your well-being, ensuring that your lifestyle is keeping you in peak shape.



Dementia Awareness

Dementia awareness

There are so many great charitable causes in the UK raising funds for research into the condition and to care for those whose people have Dementia. 


The current statistics shared by these charities is that one in three people born in the UK today will go on to develop dementia. Continued research into the condition will help better understand the condition and find a breakthrough.


Race against Dementia Day - 21st January


Founded by former F1 racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, after his wife Helen’s frontotemporal dementia diagnosis, Race Against Dementia funds early-career researchers to accelerate progress towards a cure for dementia.


With over 55 million people affected globally and someone diagnosed every three seconds, Race Against Dementia is taking immediate action to drive significant breakthroughs and develop leaders in the field. In 2024, the organisation is set to kick off with an epic challenge in support of Race Against Dementia. The boat, Destiny’s Tide, will be embarking on one of the toughest endurance events in the world, the Atlantic Dash, covering 5,000km.


Dementia Action Week - 13th - 19th May


Each year, the Alzheimer's Society works with individuals and organisations across the UK to encourage people to act on dementia. They want to encourage those who might be living with undiagnosed dementia to understand and recognise potential dementia symptoms, feel empowered to take their next step and improve the diagnosis process. 

About One Day Tests

One Day Tests customers

At One Day Tests our objective is simple, offering customers instant access to blood testing and providing them with easy to understand results that can then action the next steps in their health journey.


We offer over 140 different blood tests, that can be taken in one of our walk-in clinics or via a finger prick test in the comfort of your own home.


Click here to find out more about our range of blood tests

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