Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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Dementia is gaining more and more traction in the UK, not only in terms of case numbers but in terms of the public desire to fight it. Even F1 legend Jackie Stewart has set up his own charity to fight the disease. But closer to home, new data has found a heart-stopping link between the disease and one of the nation’s favourite leisure pursuits – drinking.
A new study, by King’s College London, has found a link between alcohol and dementia in the over-50s.
The study, led by consultant psychiatrist doctor Tony Rao, covered more than 15,000 over-50s over two years, during which time the quantity and frequency of when they drank was recorded and their thinking skills assessed.
The study found that just eight units of alcohol a week increases an individuals’ risk of developing dementia by fifty percent.
To put this in context, eight units is equivalent to four small glasses of wine or four pints of beer.
This, doctor Rao said, is enough to cause problems with short term memory and spatial awareness.
The results of this study come at the same time as the University of Washington School of Medicine predicts that global dementia cases will triple by 2050, from 57.4 million at the moment, to just over 152.8 million by midway through this century.
This is due, in part, to an ageing population and lifestyle trends of individuals.
The reason this is so important is because dementia is caused by cells of a protein called amyloid beta which a healthy brain clears very easily.
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However, the addition of alcohol reduces the brains’ ability to carry out this process.
As a result, this dangerous protein can trigger symptoms of dementia; this is why alcohol consumption increases your risk.
But there is good news. According to doctor Rosa Sancho of Alzheimer’s Research UK, “this is wholly preventable if the people identified early with these tests cut down or become abstinent”.
In short, you can make the difference. You may not be able to drink like it’s a Friday night, but at least you’ll be able to remember that night a month or six months later.
As well as taking a measured approach to your alcohol intake, it is useful to keep in mind the common early symptoms of dementia.
This can include memory loss, finding it difficult to carry out familiar daily tasks such as getting dressed, struggling to follow a conversation, or being confused about time and place.
Common risk factors depend not just on your location, but the type of dementia.
The most common factors are those which can’t be avoided, such as ageing, your gender, ethnicity, and genes.
However, there are other factors which can affect your chances of getting dementia, such as your exposure to air pollution and how much you smoke or drink.
As the study demonstrates, the less you drink, the healthier your mind will be. The same also applies to smoking and getting enough aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging.
Another risk factor is cognitive reserve, that is a person’s ability to cope with disease in their brain; a major factor in this is social isolation and how much you interact with others.
So, whilst wine may not be your best friend when it comes to dementia, it may be that your own friends and the people around you can play a role in keeping you dementia safe.
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