Up to half of all dementia cases worldwide could be prevented by addressing lifestyle risk factors through the course of people's lives, says Prof Sean Kennelly of Tallaght University Hospital, in Dublin.
Just what you can do for your brain health will be outlined in a series of free online webinars, starting on Monday, March 15th, the first day of Brain Awareness Week. Hosted by Dementia Research Network Ireland (DRNI), which is a collaboration of clinicians and academics, the weekly webinars will run until May, covering topics such as the impact of nutrition and exercise on the brain, healthy habits for healthy minds and rejuvenating your brain.
Research has shown that, in early life, education and other social factors help to mitigate risk but that, in midlife, issues such as alcohol consumption, obesity, high blood pressure and hearing loss significantly increase a person’s likelihood of developing dementia. In later life, physical inactivity, social isolation, depression and smoking are among the biggest risk factors.
Kennelly, a consultant geriatrician and DRNI chairman, will talk at the first webinar about the evidence for prevention of dementia. He will also outline the work of Ireland’s first hospital-based brain-health clinic, which opened a year ago at Tallaght. Here they see people with, say, mild memory impairment or signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s, to establish their risk-factor profile, asking about sleep patterns, stress and anxiety levels, exercise and diet.
“We develop what is called a PPP – personal prevention plan – and that benchmarks you relative to your peers, showing what you’re doing well and what you need to do better.”
Even as the director of clinical trials at the memory clinic in Tallaght, Kennelly believes they will probably never find a drug as impactful as appropriate lifestyle interventions. It is key, he adds, that such advice is given not only to patients presenting with mild memory symptoms but also generally promoted, just as is done for, say, cardiovascular health.
More information and registration for the webinars on dementianetwork.ie