Five golden rules to cut the risk of dementia; Top prof on preventing disease.
Byline: GILES SHELDRICK
KEEPING physically and mentally active, and getting enough sleep are among five ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia by a fifth, a top professor says today.
Quitting smoking, losing weight and getting more social interaction can also help to stave off the deadly disease.
While genetic factors are out of our control, renowned researcher, Prof Sir Muir Gray, says we can still help ourselves. Prof Gray, 74, said: "Dementia is a terrifying prospect, but we can all reduce our risk and should act now.
"There is still considerable cope for reducing the risk even further, perhaps by as much as 20 per cent, by tackling other causes, most importantly physical, mental and social inactivity."
Studies show that just 34 per cent of people think they can reduce their dementia risk, compared to 77 per cent who think they can help prevent heart disease.
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is now the UK's biggest killer, with 70,366 deaths in 2016. Experts warn of a health care crisis, as around 10 per cent of over-65s and 33 per cent of people aged 85 and over already have the condition. By 2050, two million people will have dementia. Prof Gray said: "It is never too late to reduce your risk of developing disease by becoming fitter and adopting a positive attitude.
"Seventy-year-olds can still increase their strength, stamina, suppleness, skill and psychology, even if they have one or more one chronic condition. The risk of disease, and therefore how long we live, is determined more by lifestyle and environment than genes." Prof Gray also warns against self-medicating, including alcohol use, and suggests keeping cholesterol and blood sugar levels low to avoid Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to dementia.
And he urges people to keep their minds active by learning new skills.
Prof Gray said: "Not only can you reduce the risk of dementia, you can actually improve the ability of brain and mind at any age."
Dr Rosa Sancho, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "The brain, just like other parts of the body, can be affected by the way we live. It is vital the Government, alongside academic institutions and charities, continue to raise awareness of key risk factors of dementia." One of the UK's most high-profile dementia sufferers is ex-EastEnders star, Dame Barbara Windsor, 81, who revealed her diagnosis earlier this year.
1. Keep mind and body active: avoid sitting still and take regular exercise such as walking; keep mentally fit by reading and learning something new. 2. Keep weight, blood sugar and blood pressure down: eat a diet packed with fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and pulses.
3. Stop smoking: singly the greatest way to damage your health.
4. Sleep better and learn to relax and reduce stress: you don't need less sleep as you grow older, but more.
5. Engage with others: become a volunteer and join online social groups.
tragic tv star Dame Barbara Windsor has the disease