Make changes now to modify the risks

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Doc Spot by Dr Chris Marshall of Salisbury House Surgery

Some of the truth about Alzheimer’s is hard to write about in a non-medical paper. The average length of time from the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia to dying is seven years.

Fifty per cent of people in care homes have dementia and this is a great cost for families. But the harder burden is for carers looking after their loved ones in the family home. With regard to our health we are not just passive recipients of what life throws at us. It is true we can randomly get some bad things - some odd cancers, accidents and some types of arthritis for instance. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia do come along as we are getting older, but 30 per cent of cases can be attributed to potentially modifiable risk factors.

Alzheimer’s is what occurs in 60-80% of the 500,000 people affected by dementia in the UK. So if this burden can be reduced by 30 per cent it would be a massive improvement and help for spouses, carers, families and society as a whole. I would recommend that you think about what you are doing now that can impact on your risk.

So what are the modifiable risks? They are the usual suspects if you have seen some of my earlier articles, which are still accessible on the LBO website, plus a couple of other factors: smoking, hypertension in midlife, obesity in midlife, physical inactivity, diabetes, depression, low educational attainment and use of benzodiazepines (such as Valium, Diazepam or Temazepam).

Our Government and governments worldwide need to help with access to good education. After thinking about it, the important thing is to make a positive change.

Make changes for yourself, your future and also for the future of your children and family. A lot of the above factors are our own responsibility, but the health service needs to support with good treatment and efforts to reduce the prevalence of above risks. (It may be worth revisiting the ‘23 and a half hour’ YouTube video). The health service cannot pick up all the broken pieces, especially if we started breaking the pieces 25-30 years earlier.