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A fifth of people unaware of how to reduce their risk of dementia

Published 27 August 2014

Ruth Langsford with her dog Maggie

More than a fifth of people do not think it is possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Alzheimer’s Society.

Despite growing evidence that simple lifestyle factors can improve our chances of avoiding dementia, the poll found that 22 per cent of the general public are unaware of this and could be putting themselves at risk.

Alzheimer's Society is calling on people to take action now and has revealed five simple things people can start doing straight away to reduce their risk of the dementia. The most important of which is to take regular exercise. The results and tips are released as Alzheimer's Society encourages people to sign up to its annual flagship fundraising event, Memory Walk.

Ruth Langsford, Alzheimer's Society Ambassador and presenter of ITV's This Morning and Loose Women, said:

'My wonderful dad had dementia, so naturally I have concerns that I might get it too. Like a worrying number of us, I didn't realise until recently that there are simple things you can do to reduce your risk, such as exercising regularly. Now I try to eat healthily, keep active and go on long walks with our dog, Maggie. This September I'm bringing my dog to Alzheimer's Society's Memory Walk as it's the perfect way to get some gentle exercise, whilst raising money for the charity and remembering dad.'

Alzheimer's Society recommends the following five simple things you can start doing now to reduce your risk of developing the condition:
  • Exercise - There's more evidence that regular exercise will prevent dementia than for any other measure we might take. Walking regularly is an excellent way of keeping active.
  • Eat Mediterranean food - Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil and nuts, a little red wine and not much meat or dairy.
  • Manage other health conditions – Other conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure both increase your risk of developing dementia, so get these checked and follow medical advice to keep them under control.
  • Avoid smoking - it significantly increases your risk of developing dementia, most likely because it damages blood vessels and reduces the amount of blood that reaches your brain. 
  • Use it or lose it – Scientists believe that frequently challenging your brain with new things is the key, for example taking up a new hobby, learning a language or even walking an unfamiliar route.

Dr Clare Walton from Alzheimer's Society said:

'800,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia but with no cure yet, we need a significant public health effort to attempt to reduce the number of future cases of the condition.

'We know that what is good for your heart is good for your head and there are simple things you can start doing now to reduce your risk of developing dementia. Regular exercise is a good place to start as well as avoiding smoking and eating a Mediterranean diet.

'It is never too early to start making healthier choices that could help your memory - whether that's hitting the gym or just walking instead of catching the bus, it all helps.'

Memory Walks take place around the UK throughout the autumn to raise money for people affected by dementia and their carers. It is a day to walk, share and celebrate someone special and everyone walks with one common goal: to defeat dementia. From shorter walks no longer than a mile to walks as far as 10k there is something on offer for everyone.

To find a walk near you, visit memorywalk.org.uk

Notes to editors:

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,289 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28 - 29 May 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  • Memory Walk is Alzheimer's Society's flagship fundraising event.  The walks take place across the UK this autumn to raise money for people affected by dementia and their carers.
  • Alzheimer's Society research shows that 800,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia; more than half have Alzheimer's disease. In less than ten years a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051
  • Alzheimer's Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions of people who care for them
  • Alzheimer's Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Alzheimer's Society has a plan to deal with dementia. Help us support people to live well today and fight for a world without dementia tomorrow. We rely on voluntary donations to continue our vital work. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers.org.uk
  • Alzheimer's Society provides a National Dementia Helpline, the number is 0300 222 11 22 or visit alzheimers.org.uk