More than a fifth of people do not think it is possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Alzheimer's Society.
Despite growing evidence that simple lifestyle factors can improve our chances of avoiding dementia, the poll found that 22 per cent of the general public are unaware of this and could be putting themselves at risk.
Alzheimer's Society is calling on people to take action now, and has revealed five simple things people can start doing straight away to reduce their risk of dementia. The most important of which is to take regular exercise. The results and tips are released as Alzheimer's Society encourages people to sign up to its annual flagship fundraising event, Memory Walk.
Ruth Langsford, Alzheimer's Society Ambassador and presenter of ITV's This Morning and Loose Women, said:
'My wonderful dad had dementia, so naturally I have concerns that I might get it too. Like a worrying number of us, I didn't realise until recently that there are simple things you can do to reduce your risk, such as exercising regularly. Now I try to eat healthily, keep active and go on long walks with our dog, Maggie. This September I'm bringing my dog to Alzheimer's Society's Memory Walk as it's the perfect way to get some gentle exercise while raising money for the charity and remembering dad.'
Alzheimer's Society recommends the following five simple things you can start doing now to reduce your risk of developing the condition:
Exercise - there's more evidence that regular exercise will prevent dementia than for any other measure we might take. Walking regularly is an excellent way of keeping active.
Eat Mediterranean food - eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil and nuts, a little red wine and not much meat or dairy.
Manage other health conditions – other conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure both increase your risk of developing dementia, so get these checked and follow medical advice to keep them under control.
Avoid smoking - it significantly increases your risk of developing dementia, most likely because it damages blood vessels and reduces the amount of blood that reaches your brain.
Use it or lose it – scientists believe that frequently challenging your brain with new things is the key, for example taking up a new hobby, learning a language or even walking an unfamiliar route.
Dr Clare Walton from Alzheimer's Society said:
'800,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia but with no cure yet, we need a significant public health effort to attempt to reduce the number of future cases of the condition.
'We know that what is good for your heart is good for your head and there are simple things you can start doing now to reduce your risk of developing dementia. Regular exercise is a good place to start as well as eating a Mediterranean diet and avoiding smoking.
'It is never too early to start making healthier choices that could help your memory - whether that's hitting the gym or just walking instead of catching the bus, it all helps.'