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While scientists strive for a better understanding of dementia, we can all take some steps to protect against this condition

Prevention plan

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN FORGETFULNESS can be brushed off as a senior moment. But in a recent radio phone-in on the subject, one listener confided that, if she did develop anything in her later years, she hoped it wouldn’t be dementia as ‘that would be too terrifying.’

Media reports and candid admissions like this – many on the back of the dementia tax discussion during this year’s general election – have revealed the deep-seated fear many of us have of being diagnosed with the disease.

Recent research predicts that over 1.2 million people in England and Wales will be living with dementia by 2040, largely as a result of increased life expectancy. Talk to those in their 50s and there’s a good chance someone in their family is suffering the early or late stages of memory loss and that, once severe, it has thrown into turmoil that relative’s hopes and plans for later life.

All of us experience forgetfulness from time to time – the name of someone we bump into at a party or the unknown reason we find ourselves going upstairs (generally recalled once back downstairs!). This is because as we get older, the hormones and proteins that repair and encourage growth in the brain start to decline, making it harder to recall things.

But not all memory loss is a sign of dementia. Moments of vagueness can be the result of stress. Some are associated with health conditions besides dementia such as depression, while more severe mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can be caused by physical as well as mental ill health.

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