May 21, 2019
I had the privilege of attending the launch of the Dementia framework 2019-2024 run by the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS, and some of the facts that we were given about the illness were staggering. As it is Dementia Action week, I thought it may be useful to share some of these with you.
For example, I was not aware that dementia is currently the biggest cause of death in the UK. In my ignorance, I was not even sure that I knew the condition was terminal. 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to dementia.
It is estimated that there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and by the year 2025 this will soar to 1 million.
Although age can be a factor, not everyone who is old has dementia and not everyone who has dementia is old; there are 40,000 younger people with dementia in the UK.
Over 42,000 people under the age of 65 years have dementia in the UK and 2/3 of people with dementia are supported at home by some of the 670,000 unpaid carers throughout the country. Young dementia UK provides information, support and resources on the condition on their website at www.youngdementiauk.org
As a result, it is no surprise that dementia has been identified by the government as a major priority and challenge. But how many of us actually know about what causes the illness and are there things we can do to stop or slow down the disease?
There are lots of causes to dementia, and no two types of dementia are the same. The most common or heard of type of dementia are diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease which causes nerve cells to die, damaging the structure and chemistry of the brain.
Other types of dementia include:
Vascular dementia, which is caused by problems with blood supply to the brain (common after a stroke); mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease).
What is clear is that everyone experiences dementia in their own way and lots of influences can impact on how they cope with the disease, including their own attitude towards the illness, and their level of physical health.
Although there is no cure for dementia, there are lots of tips out there for reducing the risk of dementia such as:
- Physical exercise - Doing regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. It’s good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing.
- Eat healthily - A healthy, balanced diet may reduce your risk of dementia, as well as other conditions including cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke and heart disease.
- Don’t smoke - the stats show that if you smoke you are putting yourself at a much higher risk of developing dementia
- Drink less alcohol - drinking too much increases your risk of developing dementia- astonishingly the research has seen a 100% increase in older women drinking, which can lead to alcohol related brain damage if you drink more that 14 units a week!
- Exercise your mind - keeping your mind active is likely to reduce your risk of dementia- regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease- one way to think about it is ‘use it or lose it’
- Take control of your health - Mid-Life is an important time to start taking care of your health, if you are not doing so already. If you are worried about health problems such as depression, hearing loss or not getting enough sleep as all of these might increase your risk of dementia.
If you are concerned about anything in your health life, then visit your GP- take advantage of the free MOT health check that anyone between the ages of 40-72 are all entitled to! Alzheimer’s Society have produced a fact sheet on ‘Reducing the Risk’.
There are plenty of support mechanisms that can help people with dementia to lead an active and fulfilling life both nationally and locally: you certainly do not need to be alone in dealing with or caring for someone with Dementia.
About the Author
Lynn Collins is the Head of HR Services.
Lynn is a CIPD qualified, experienced HR generalist and training professional with a wealth of experience in both public and private sectors who provides a pragmatic, common sense approach to dealing with HR topics across the whole of the Employment life cycle.