A report by Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran
Almost 80,000 people in Scotland are living with dementia today, a number set to double by 2050.
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be very challenging. Watching someone we care about make the slow descent from the person they used to be into somebody far removed from their former self is really distressing. It’s an illness cruel beyond words.
As our population ages and people live longer, there are huge cost and care challenges to face in terms of how we look after our older people, especially those who live with this dreadful disease. Those challenges are faced by societies across the world.
There are currently no treatments to slow, stop or prevent Alzheimer’s, responsible for 70% of dementia cases and the 5th most common cause of death worldwide. Related diseases include vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. It’s vital we do everything possible to spare people from this condition.
Despite billions of pounds spent across the globe annually on research over decades, the causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still uncertain, although P.gingivalis, a bacterium involved in gum disease, which can settle in the brain, was highlighted in New Scientist as a possible culprit.
Inflammation and toxins caused by P.gingivalis damage the mouth lining, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream and then other organs. Gum inflammation can lead to chronic periodontitis and tooth loss, and some studies show that people with fewer teeth are more likely to have dementia.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is dedicated to finding ways to better understand, diagnose, treat and reduce the risk of dementia, and I fully support its new Think Brain Health campaign, launched to help us understand how to reduce our personal risk of developing dementia.
Up to 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed by healthy lifestyle changes, according to a 2020 report from the Lancet Commission, yet Alzheimer’s Research UK’s research reveals that only 34% of people are aware of this.
The Think Brain Health initiative offers simple advice about how to look after your brain throughout your life. The campaign focuses on three simple rules; love your heart, stay sharp and keep connected. Tips include taking regular exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, staying mentally active and looking after your teeth and gums, while keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and weight in check.
We can all improve our brain health. I’m trying to exercise regularly and eat more healthily. I hope many more people will do the same.
The SNP Government recently established Brain Health Scotland, the first national programme of its kind. It will work to ensure that optimal brain health and dementia prevention is central to our public health strategies, research and clinical practice. As part of this, the SNP Government will publish its Brain Health and Dementia Prevention Strategy later this year.
We can all take positive steps to look after our brains throughout our lives and ultimately, reduce our risk of dementia.
For more information on Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Think Brain Health campaign click here.