Dementia is considered one of the most distressing conditions we can face – people are twice as afraid of losing their cognitive skills as they are about losing physical abilities.
Although for many years it seemed like little could be done to prevent it, a recent international study in the Lancet found 1 in 3 cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health throughout life.
While the exact cause isn’t known, age is one major factor for dementia – it affects an estimated 1 in 14 people over 65, and 1 in every 6 people over the age of 80. Another is a family history of the condition – early red flags are usually minor memory problems, such as forgetting about recent conversations, events or the names of things.
But, just because you do have a family history, or you are ageing, doesn’t mean the die is cast. Making positive changes such as not smoking, exercising, eating healthily and treating high blood pressure will not only reduce your risk of dementia, but also of cancer and heart disease and improve your general quality of life.
If diagnosed, Specialist Memory Clinics can not only help manage the symptoms of the disease, but can also help provide support for both patients and their families, such as providing adaptations for the home or support groups for carers.
Dementia is currently forecast set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to part of that statistic. Speak to your GP early and often if you have any concerns, as knowledge can be the first defense in your medical care.