Quarter of people unable to identify dementia risks, survey

More than a quarter (28%) of the British public is unable to correctly identify any potentially modifiable risk factor for developing dementia, according to new findings.

The survey, commissioned by Public Health England, shows there is growing evidence that a third of dementia cases could be a result of factors potentially in our control, and actions like taking regular exercise and not smoking can reduce your risk of developing it. This suggests there is huge potential for prevention.

The survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), asked the public if they could identify any of the following risk factors: heavy drinking, smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes as well as the protective factor of taking regular exercise and found just 2% of the public is able to identify all of them.

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Also, more than 1 in 4 people (27%) in Britain incorrectly believe that there is nothing anyone can do to reduce their risks of getting dementia.

Respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statement, “there is nothing anyone can do to reduce their risks of getting dementia”. 27% incorrectly agree that there is nothing anyone can do; a further 26% neither agree nor disagree; and only 43% correctly disagreed with the statement.

Older people are more likely to agree that there is nothing anyone can do to reduce their risk of developing dementia: 33% of those aged 65 and over said this compared with 26% of those under 65.

Dr Charles Alessi, senior dementia advisor at PHE, noted that dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing.

He said: “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.”

Susan Reid, research director at NatCen, said: “Today’s results draw attention to the high levels of uncertainty among the public regarding dementia risk factors. Whilst most people are able to recognise dementia symptoms, many believe there’s nothing anyone can do to reduce their risk. But this isn’t the case.”

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