Lack of knowledge 'increasing dementia risk'

07 February 2019 08:58

Alzheimer's disease causes two-thirds of all dementia cases

Alzheimer's disease causes two-thirds of all dementia cases

Two thirds of UK adults don't know they're able to lower their risk of developing dementia, new research has shown.

The study, by Alzheimer's Research UK, found a lack of awareness around lifestyle factors that increase the risk of the disease, and the measures that can be taken to lower this risk.

Around half (48%) could not identify a single risk factor for dementia, which include heavy drinking, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and genetics.

And the study found that just 1% of UK adults were able to name all seven known risk or protective factors for the disease, which include exercise and living a healthy lifestyle.

Personal risk

The Dementia Attitudes Monitor interviewed 2,361 people and was carried out by Ipsos MORI for Alzheimer's Research UK.

In the poll, half (49%) of people said they did not know dementia was a cause of death, while 22% incorrectly said it was an inevitable part of getting older.

Most (73%) said they would want to be given information in midlife about their personal risk of developing dementia later in life, if doctors were able to.

Some 85% would also be willing to take a test administered by their doctor to tell them whether they were in the very early stages of dementia, even before symptoms appeared.

Meanwhile, two in five people (42%) named dementia as the health condition they fear the most.

More than 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia and this number is set to rise to more than one million by 2025.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms that affect cognitive function, such as memory loss, confusion and changes to personality, with Alzheimer's disease the most common cause.

Biggest killer

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, said despite dementia being the UK's biggest killer, only half of people recognise it even causes death.

She said: "Almost half of UK adults are unable to name one of seven known risk factors for dementia including smoking, high blood pressure and heavy drinking.

"Many of these enduring misconceptions influence attitudes to research, with the Dementia Attitudes Monitor showing that those who believe dementia is an inevitable part of ageing are also less likely to value a formal diagnosis or to engage with research developments that could bring about life-changing preventions and treatments.

"Making breakthroughs in public understanding has the potential to empower more people to take steps to maintain their own brain health, to seek a diagnosis and to support research that has the power to transform lives."

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