Nearly 30% of people in the UK are unable to identify any of the risk factors for developing dementia, according to new findings from the British Social Attitudes survey, on behalf of Public Health England (PHE).
The survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, asked participants if they could name any of the risk factors, such as heavy drinking, smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes. Respondents were also asked about protective factors such as regular exercise.
The survey found that just 2% of the public is able to identify all of them, while 27% in Britain incorrectly believed that there was nothing anyone can do to reduce their risks of getting dementia. It also found that the elderly are more likely to agree that there is nothing anyone can do to reduce their risk of developing dementia, with 33% of those aged 65 and over believing this compared with 26% of those under 65.
‘Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing,’ said Dr Charles Alessi, senior dementia advisor at Public Health England. ‘What’s good for the heart is good for the brain and simple steps like giving up smoking, reducing alcohol intake, losing weight and taking regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future.’
The survey also examined public perception of dementia, with 52% saying dementia is either their first, second or third priority from a list of health conditions for doctors to try to prevent. A further 12% see dementia as the highest priority for prevention.
‘While we don’t yet have sure-fire preventions, research suggests keeping healthy from mid-life could help reduce the risk of dementia,’ said Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK. ‘With 850,000 people already living with dementia in the UK, we must do all we can to help people understand the risk factors for dementia now if we are to influence dementia rates in the future.’