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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Over 40s should be aware of how to reduce dementia risk early on, charities say

Written by Ella Pickover

People aged 40 and over should be advised on how they can take steps to reduce their risk of dementia, experts have said.

The benefits of stopping smoking, being physically active, eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol, "connecting with people" and keeping mentally active should be highlighted in the NHS Health Check - sometimes referred to as a midlife MOT, the nation's leading dementia charities have said.

Currently the dementia element of the NHS Health Check programme is delivered to people over 65, where they will have a conversation about the signs and symptoms of dementia.

But Alzheimer's Research UK and the Alzheimer's Society are calling for the check - which is offered to adults in England aged 40 to 74 - to also include advice on how to reduce risk of dementia earlier on.

The call comes after a pilot study, conducted by the charities and Public Health England, examined dementia risk reduction messaging in NHS Health Checks for those aged 40-64.

A poll of 207 people who took part in the pilot, which focused on the message 'what's good for your heart is good for your brain', found 164 recalled the dementia messaging after their check-up.

Of the 164, 75% said they were more likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing dementia, while 80% said the advice would have some impact on their behaviour.

The charities are now calling for dementia risk reduction messaging to become mandatory in NHS Health Checks for people aged between 40 and 64.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer's Society, said: "It's great the NHS has already been equipping over 65s with ways to reduce their risk when they have annual check-ups.

"But, in terms of having the greatest impact on reducing dementia risk, we've been missing the boat.

"Dementia takes hold of the brain decades before symptoms appear, so empowering people to get fit and eat healthier from age 40 is crucial if we're to reduce the number of people developing the condition.

"In the absence of a cure, risk reduction is a vital tool to fight dementia. With the condition set to be the 21st century's biggest killer, it's important that as a nation we unite against dementia and each of us do what we can to reduce our risk."

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific Officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, added: "Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing and we now know that there are steps we can all take to reduce our risk.

"As evidence about dementia risk factors grows, we must arm the public with this knowledge and the NHS Health Check is a perfect platform to do this.

"The results of our pilot study show that there is a strong public desire for dementia risk reduction information, and that people are willing to act on it too - which is why we hope to see this approach rolled out nationally.

"If we can reach people in midlife now, when there's a real window of opportunity to impact dementia risk; imagine the difference we could make to the number of people living with dementia in future."

The findings of the pilot are being considered by the Expert Scientific Clinical and Advisory panel, a Public Health England spokeswoman said.

Associate Professor Jamie Waterall, lead for cardiovascular disease prevention at the organisation, said: "This is useful evidence which emphasises existing guidance that practitioners should talk to everyone about reducing their risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other conditions such as dementia."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Steve Parsons / PA Wire.