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Health Chatter: Dementia - reducing the risk

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Dementia is a general term that covers a number of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia.

Each of these diseases affects the normal functioning of brain cells by damaging them, interrupting the connections between cells, and/or causing them to die.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.

What’s the risk?

Not everybody will develop dementia, but anyone can be at risk. There are three main risk factors:

  1. Age Age is the biggest risk factor, and this risk starts to increase from age 60 onwards.

  2. Genes It’s very uncommon to inherit dementia, but our genetics can play a part. If you’ve inherited certain genes your risk may be slightly higher, however, having these genes doesn’t guarantee you will develop dementia.

  3. Lifestyle There’s not a lot you can do about age or your genes, but your lifestyle is something you can do something about. Smokers and those who drink too much alcohol have a higher risk. Quit smoking and keep your alcohol intake within healthy limits to reduce your risk of dementia. This will reduce your risk for a host of other health conditions too. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is a great way to look after your heart, and your heart health can be a big factor in your dementia risk. Aim for at least 5 portions of veg & fruit a day, and cut down on sugary snacks. Regular physical exercise can also help reduce your risk. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, of physical activity that raises your heart rate. Although dementia is rare in people under 60, building the foundations of a healthy lifestyle when we are younger is the best way to reduce our risk.

Symptoms of dementia:

  • Memory problems

  • Difficulty processing information and getting confused

  • Problems communicating - finding the right words

  • Mood swings

  • Changes in behaviour

  • Delusions and hallucinations

If you or a family member is worried about dementia, book an appointment to see a GP for advice and support. Take someone with you, if possible, so they can help explain any behavioural changes, and help you remember what the doctor said. If the appointment is for a family member, it might be a good idea to suggest you go along with them. Our sources and for more information:


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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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