Dementia is the most feared condition – what can we do about it?

Research Network Volunteer Rosemary Phillips talks about her family history of dementia and evidence-based actions we can take to reduce our risk.

Both my parents died well into their 90s with mild dementia. I provided support to enable them remain independent in their last few years – through which I am really pleased that I became acquainted with the Alzheimer’s Society.  

My parents made all the right lifestyle choices. As a child, when I was told I had to walk rather than take the bus or I was presented with a plate full of greens, I did not appreciate this at all! But, I fully believe that for them this was the reason any signs of dementia came so late. 

So, in a very self-interested way, I am convinced that I need to do the same.  

Rosemary Phillips' parents on a walk in the park

Rosemary's parents on a walk in the park

Joining the Research Network

On joining the Research Network, it soon became apparent to me that there were remarkably few proposals for research into preventing dementia. And yet the Lancet Commission (comprising a group of extremely eminent scientists) has concluded that for those of us who would otherwise get dementia, good lifestyle choices might prevent or delay the onset in up to 4 out of every 10 people

That is a staggering number – we would all leap to have a drug that would deliver that. There are 12 risk factors: less education; hearing loss; traumatic brain injury; hypertension; excess alcohol; obesity; smoking; depression; social isolation; physical inactivity; diabetes; air pollution.  

Of course, it is mightily unfair in that for the other 6 out of every 10 people, our lifestyle choices will not make a difference. Which demonstrates just how desperately we need more research into dementia. 

So, what can we do right now? 

By making good lifestyle choices, we can at least stack the odds in our favour.

But we can do more. We can encourage those around us to follow this guidance; there are many advocates ‘out there’ with strategies to reduce our risk of heart disease, cancer or diabetes, but the case for reducing our risk of dementia is rarely made in the same way (apart from on the Alzheimer’s Society website, that is). And yet dementia is the most feared condition – I firmly believe that we need to be out there too, making this case. 

I certainly feel better knowing I am doing everything I can to improve my chances of avoiding or delaying a condition that has affected rather too many of my ancestors. I hope by sharing this, it might give some encouragement to others too.  

How to reduce your risk of dementia

Learn more about risk factors for dementia and what you can do to reduce your risk

Reduce your risk


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