Incidence of dementia expected to treble in a generation

Last night’s RTÉ programme My Broken Brain  was an absorbing watch. Difficult at times but a vital watch for all of us.

It brought me back to my first radio show of 2017 for Dublin City FM. Have a read and listen below.

Tina Leonard, Alzheimer Society of Ireland, revealed to Viva Vox, that the current figure of 55,000 in Ireland with dementia could treble in a generation.

Alzheimer’s, which is a form of dementia, is not a natural part of aging but that is still a real risk factor. Therefore our aging population will contribute to this growth in incidence. It is not the only risk factor however of the numerous types of dementia which are “physical illnesses in the brain that create cognitive impairment which impinge on peoples day-to-day lives”.

Very often, people don’t think about risk factors when it comes to dementia. Staying healthy overall, exercising, reducing alcohol consumption, not smoking, and eating healthily all help to keep our bodies and muscles in good working order. This is true for our brains too.

Building up a ‘cognitive reserve’ by keeping the brain busy, doing repetitive movements (such as crosswords) and keeping it strong and robust can all help. Continuing to use the brain over the course of a life from school, through college/work, learning languages, socialising can all build the muscle just like going to the gym or exercising builds other muscles.

Physical evidence of dementia has even shown up in post-mortem, according to Leonard, without any signs or symptoms having being observed in life. It’s possible that a stronger, more active and robust brain is able to hold off the dementia for longer, similar to stronger immune-system holding off colds and flus.

The message to anyone noticing any symptoms of cognitive impairment is that it could be caused by stress, side effects of medication or anything else, or it could be a sign of something more serious like dementia, so the advice is to not delay and visit your doctor. Some of the symptoms described by Leonard included people having difficulty finding the words to say something or working out how to use a toothbrush.

With half the cost of caring for people with dementia already being borne by direct family members, it is vital we get involved to learn all we can about the illness and how best to manage it and care for someone living with dementia should the situation arise.

For more information or support about dementia/Alzheimer’s please see;

http://www.alzheimer.ie/Home.aspx

Or call the National Helpline on

 1800 341 341

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