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Digital brain health tool aims to cut dementia risk

Statistics show 98 per cent of people have room for improvement when it comes to looking after their brain health

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A new digital tool has been created to help people reduce their dementia risk, in response to statistics which show only two per cent of the population are doing everything they can to keep their brains healthy. 

The Think Brain Health Check-In has been launched by Alzheimer’s Research UK and prompts people to answer a series of evidence-based questions about the factors that research shows could affect their brain health. 

The free platform is designed to empower people to look after their brains and reduce their risk of dementia later in life. 

According to findings from a review paper led by Professor Gill Livingston, of UCL Psychiatry, up to 40 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented, if 12 risk factors could be eliminated entirely. These include smoking, hearing impairment, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes, and infrequent social contact.

However, only a third of people realise that there are steps they can take to reduce their risk of dementia.

According to a YouGov survey, commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK, 98 per cent of people have room for improvement when it comes to looking after their brain health.

Dementia Carers Count 

The survey also revealed:

  • While 35 per cent of people said they have had concerns about their hearing, more than half of those (59 per cent) reported that they haven’t done anything about it
  • Less than a third (31 per cent) said they get the recommended seven hours of quality sleep a night – the recommended amount for good brain health
  • Over a third report that they’re failing to challenge their brain regularly, with 32 per cent only managing to do this occasionally, while four per cent feel they don’t ever challenge their brain. But on a more positive note, over a quarter (27 per cent) believe they are challenging their brain daily
  • People find they’re struggling to squeeze in two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week – the NHS recommended amount – with 26 per cent admitting they do this occasionally, while 22 per cent never do this
  • Promisingly, people say they are doing a great job at keeping connected, with 73 per cent speaking to friends, family and colleagues either daily (40 per cent) or several times a week (33 per cent).

The Check-in is based on the latest evidence in dementia risk reduction and was developed under guidance from an expert group of researchers and members of the public, including UCL Psychiatry’s Professor Livingston and Dr Naaheed Mukadam, as well as Professor Jonathan Schott, of UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, who is also Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Chief Medical Officer.

The Check-in takes around ten minutes to complete and at the end, highlights the areas where people are doing well, as well as giving them tips on areas where they can be doing more to look after their brains and ultimately, it is hoped, lower their chances of developing dementia.

It covers everything from physical activity to healthy diet, as well as factors like hearing, sleep, cognitive challenge and mental wellbeing. While people of all ages are encouraged to take the Check-in, it is primarily aimed at adults in their 40s and 50s. 

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It’s time for the nation to wake up to the idea of brain health and how looking after our brains can reduce the risk of dementia. The fact that 98 per cent of people have room to improve their brain health highlights the huge potential of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s new Think Brain Health Check-in to help transform lives.

“The Check-in gives people the information they need at their fingertips on how to keep their brains healthy and reduce their risk of dementia later on in life. As the UK’s leading dementia research charity, we want to empower people to take action when it comes to their brain and that’s why we’re calling on people to take the Check-in.”

Professor Schott said: “We hope the Think Brain Health Check-in will show people that there are things that can be done to improve their brain health, and provide a practical and easy means to allow them to take action to reduce their risk of dementia.

“While there are no sure-fire ways to prevent dementia yet – risk is likely to relate to a combination of our age, genetics and lifestyle – evidence has shown that there are steps we can all take to improve our brain health. 

“Currently only a third of people realise this is possible, and we urgently need to change that. It’s never too early or too late in life to start looking after your brain – so please do take the Check-in today and see what you can do to improve your brain health.”

Professor Livingston added: “This is a great Alzheimer’s Research UK initiative in response to people asking for advice. Dementia is the most feared illness in the UK and this tool gives people an easy check on ways of reducing their own risk.”

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