Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk, study says

Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk, study says

 Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk, study says

One in three cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health throughout life, according to an international study in the Lancet.

It lists nine key risk factors including lack of education, hearing loss, smoking and physical inactivity.

The study is being presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

By 2050, 131 million people could be living with dementia globally.

There are estimated to be 47 million people with the condition at the moment.

Nine factors that contribute to the risk of dementia

  • Mid-life hearing loss – responsible for 9% of the risk
  • Failing to complete secondary education – 8%
  • Smoking – 5%
  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression – 4%
  • Physical inactivity – 3%
  • Social isolation – 2%
  • High blood pressure – 2%
  • Obesity – 1%
  • Type 2 diabetes – 1%

These risk factors – which are described as potentially modifiable – add up to 35%. The other 65% of dementia risk is thought to be potentially non-modifiable.

Source: Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care

Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before. Acting now will vastly improve life for people with dementia and their families and, in doing so, will transform the future of society.

The report, which combines the work of 24 international experts, says lifestyle factors can play a major role in increasing or reducing an individual’s dementia risk.

It examines the benefits of building a “cognitive reserve”, which means strengthening the brain’s networks so it can continue to function in later life despite damage.

 Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk, study says

Eve Laird is taking part in a study on how to prevent dementia

Eve Laird, from Dumfries, is worried about dementia because her mum is living with the condition.

She has decided to make some changes to her lifestyle.

She’s terrible for eating processed foods and takeaways and she’s really been trying to cut back on that.

She definitely drinks a lot more water than she used to – and she doesn’t drink as much coffee now.

Sheactually took part in the Edinburgh marathon. For that she joined the Dumfries running club – she goes there once a week.

She says she felt so much better for the exercise, and for improving her diet.

She feels a lot healthier and mentally sharper as well. It’s something she’d really like to continue, but it is hard to stay on track.

She  thinks the small changes can make such a big difference.

Failure to complete secondary education was a major risk factor, and the authors suggest that individuals who continue to learn throughout life are likely to build additional brain reserves.

Another major risk factor is hearing loss in middle age – the researchers say this can deny people a cognitively rich environment and lead to social isolation and depression, which are among other potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia.

Another key message from the report is that what is good for the heart is good for the brain.

‘Positive changes’

Not smoking, doing exercise, keeping a healthy weight, treating high blood pressure and diabetes can all reduce the risk of dementia, as well as cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The researchers say they did not have enough data to include dietary factors or alcohol in their calculations but believe both could be important.

Though it’s not inevitable, dementia is currently set to be the 21st Century’s biggest killer. We all need to be aware of the risks and start making positive lifestyle changes. Alongside prevention research, we must continue to invest in research to find a life-changing treatment for people with this devastating condition.

We are what we say: how thoughts and speech shape our wellbeing

We are what we say: how thoughts and speech shape our wellbeing

 We are what we say: how thoughts and speech shape our wellbeing

You stumble through the door into your morning coffee ritual. As you make your way through a maze of chairs, tables and outstretched legs you finally arrive at your space at the end of the queue, and the deliberation begins!

‘Maybe I’ll have something different this time, hmm, let me see – Iced cranberry lemon tea? Nah, I need the jolt, I’ll get my usual. Good, now what else – What about one of those muffins? Nah, I’m piling it on, there’s about 6,000 calories in one of those – Bagel? Ugh no, I’ll stick to the coffee.’

Your turn comes, the server asks: ‘How can I help you?’ and you confidently declare: ‘Vanilla latte with a shot of espresso please.’

It all happens in seconds, this mass of deliberation, reasoning and decision making, and it’s never ending. While the coffee shop scenario might not be quite your thing, you’ll have your own version. This is how your mind works. It’s how all of our minds work, going constantly back and forth, every moment of every day of our lives.

Sometimes it’s quiet, sometimes ití’ loud, but it’s always there, that little voice in our head. We all know the one, the internal dialogue that filters life, categorises people and hears what it hears to give life that ever-so-familiar ring to it.

We have 50,000 thoughts per day and your moods are in a dance with your internal dialogue

Studies show that we have more than 50,000 thoughts per day. While we have little or no say in those automatic and reactionary thoughts, we have a massive say in which of those thoughts we attach significance to.

Your emotional state, your moods, your ways of being and acting are in a dance with your internal dialogue. Your experience of yourself, of being you, is intricately woven into existence in the way that you speak to yourself and others. It’s not only what you talk about but, more importantly, how you talk about it.

Most people believe that they have certain feelings first, followed by a thought to themselves about how they feel. Not quite. The language you use has a direct and powerful in-the-moment impact on your feelings. The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, said: ‘Language is the house of being’, while his compatriot, Hans-Georg Gadamer, insisted: ‘Without language nothing exists.’

Look at your own life where you use terms like ‘This is impossible’, ‘I can’t’, ‘I’m confused’, ‘This is too much’ or ‘I’m trying’. Each of these (and a litany of others), gives rise to certain emotional states (anger, frustration, resentment, hopelessness, etc), all of which work against you in your endeavour. How does feeling hopeless help in that job search, or being frustrated help in healing your relationship, or feeling incompetent get you that promotion? It doesn’t. It weighs you down and dampens your enthusiasm.

As a simple example, changing ‘It’s impossible’ to ‘I haven’t worked it out yet’ has a remarkable impact on the way in which you deal with certain problems. Your emotional state shifts.

In very real terms, how you talk about what you are dealing with either works for or against you.

Next time you’re feeling suppressed, frustrated or worn down, check yourself. Go over that internal chatter a few times and see if you can connect how you’re describing it to yourself to how you feel. Ask yourself: ‘Am I using the kind of language that is building something or destroying something? Is this in my favour or working against me?’

Language really is that important. After all, you are what you speak.

Unf*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop is published by Yellow Kite at £12.99. Order a copy for £11.04 from

England ‘on track’ to stamp out smoking


England ‘on track’ to stamp out smoking


 England 'on track' to stamp out smoking

The government has set out an ambitious plan to make England, in effect, smoke-free in the next few decades.

The new Tobacco Control Plan aims to slash smoking rates from 15.5% to 12% of the population by 2022, paving the way to a smoke-free generation.

If national smoking rates continue to fall, this generation of non-smokers could be achieved by 2030, says charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash).

Health officials say smoking currently kills 200 people a day in England.

Smoking rates in England are at the lowest level since records began.

But the Department of Health says there is still much further to go.

It has sets out a range of targets:

  • Reducing general smoking rates from the current 15.5% down to 12% or less
  • Cutting the rate of 15-year-olds who regularly smoke from 8% to 3% or less
  • Lowering smoking in pregnancy from 10.7% to 6% or less.

‘Final push’

The vision of a smoke-free generation it sets out is a welcome step-change in ambition from the last Tobacco Control Plan for England and should be achievable by 2030.

The success of the plan – which emphasises local over national action – is threatened by “severe government cuts in public health funding.

There is no new money to achieve this plan and no penalties for local areas that fail to meet the targets.

And smoking rates remain stubbornly high in some regions, particularly among the lowest earners.

Public Health England’s chief executive Duncan Selbie said the country was at a “pivotal point” where the end was in sight and a smoke-free generation a reality.

The final push, reaching the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, will undoubtedly be the hardest.

Meanwhile, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, called on ministers to “stop lecturing” people.

The most important stakeholder is the consumer, yet they are routinely ignored by the government. Ministers should stop lecturing smokers and engage with them.

‘Vaping in pregnancy’

Smoking continues to kill hundreds of people a day in England, and we know the harms fall on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. That is why we are targeting prevention and local action to address the variation in smoking rates in our society, educate people about the risks and support them to quit for good.

One of the areas the government’s plan focuses on is cutting smoking rates in pregnancy, partly by calling on local areas to appoint smoke-free pregnancy “champions”.

It comes as the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group – which includes academic institutions and charities- says pregnant women who find it hard to quit should be encouraged to try e-cigarettes as an alternative.

Smoking in pregnancy is uniquely harmful. It causes 2,000 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages and 300 deaths of babies every year in the UK. So if somebody is struggling to stop, let us be open about that, let us talk about all the options. If a woman is really struggling and wants to use e-cigarettes, then from what we know to date in the UK, we shouldn’t be preventing those women from using them.