Recently I went to see my mum. She is in her eighties and has become increasingly forgetful. Once a sprightly and fiercely independent lady, going on regular foreign holidays with her devoted husband, she now gets very confused, and her world has constricted to her home. The main cook and housemaker, she now needs encouragement to prepare even the most basic meals. The impact on her family has been tremendous, particularly for her husband, my father, having to cope not only with the stress of looking after my mother but also the loss of a lifestyle lived together for more than 65 years.
Dementia is a chronic and devastating illness, affecting the patient, his or her carers and the wider family.
A frequent thought, although often unspoken amongst her children, is… is this the future for us too?
Well there is some good news. A recent study published in The Lancet suggests 35% of cases of dementia might be preventable! The study identified nine factors that may contribute to the risk of dementia, some of which if addressed may prevent dementia. These factors include addressing hearing loss, not smoking, increasing physical activity, reducing obesity, blood pressure and diabetes, ensuring regular social interaction, and treating depression. Many of these are also good for the heart, and there is a national campaign called “What’s good for your heart is good for your head”.
Of particular concern to me is that my children tell me I am going deaf, albeit only when they ask for money!
The Alzheimer’s society has produced an interactive tool to help people understand their risk of dementia.
In Bury, we have excellent lifestyle advisors and practice nurses who can help with stopping smoking, reducing weight, blood pressure and diabetes. They can also advise about increasing exercise. You can contact the Bury Lifestyle service via this link
Healthy Minds can support patients with depression. They can be contacted via this link.
There are many organisations that can help with loneliness and these can be found on the Bury Directory.
Many of these conditions start to exert their influence in middle age, so the sooner we adopt a more healthy lifestyle the better.
Dementia is a terrible illness, it affects many people, and their carers. We can help prevent it by adopting a more healthy lifestyle.
I am off to have my hearing checked…
Dr. Jeff Schryer, local GP and Clinical Director at NHS Bury CCG