World Alzheimer’s Month promotes proactive approach

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and this year the theme is all about tackling the disease through a proactive approach to reduce risk factors.

September is World Alzheimer's Month 2023 and the theme this year is all about risk reduction strategies to delay or prevent dementiaThe international campaign, which takes place every September, aims to unite people across the globe to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia and break down the stigma that still surrounds the disease.

Spearheaded by Alzheimer’s Disease International, this year World Alzheimer’s Month will focus on the theme ‘Never too early, never too late’ to raise awareness of the key risk factors associated with dementia and the proactive steps that everyone can take towards risk reduction. The campaign is also aimed at improving ongoing risk reduction for individuals who have already been diagnosed with a form of dementia.

It includes dedicated campaign materials, with a refreshed campaign toolkit and new guides for organising awareness and fundraising events, engaging with the media and working with policymakers this World Alzheimer’s Month, as well as a dementia factsheet in a variety of different languages.

World Alzheimer’s Month focuses on risk reduction strategies

Lifestyle choices can greatly impact our risk of developing dementia and this year's World Alzheimer's Month is raising awareness of these modifiable risk factorsAlzheimer’s Disease International have highlighted risk reduction as an important step in the fight against dementia because the number of people living with the disease is predicted to almost triple by 2050.

They previously published the World Alzheimer’s Report 2019, which revealed that many people still incorrectly believe that dementia is just a normal part of ageing. The charity says that this alone demonstrates how important global awareness campaigns such as World Alzheimer’s Month are for improving knowledge around the disease.

The vital nature of the campaign is also made evident by the following facts, quoted in this year’s dementia factsheet:

  • Every 3 seconds, someone in the world will develop dementia. In the UK alone, it happens every 3 minutes (Alzheimer’s Society)
  • Informal care hours for those living with dementia total around 133 billion hours each year globally, equating to the workload of 67 million full-time workers. Around two-thirds of primary care givers are women, meaning they bear the brunt of informal care hours across the world
  • 1 in 4 people believe that dementia cannot be prevented
  • The annual global cost of dementia is currently more than US$1.3 trillion and is expected to double to more than US$2.8 trillion per year by 2030

Proactive risk reduction measures can help to delay and potentially even prevent the onset of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are known to start many years before symptoms are identified, but adopting lifelong brain health interventions can help to slow, or even prevent, the development of the disease.

Although the greatest risk factor for dementia is increasing age, the disease is not an inevitable part of growing older.

There are more than 20 genes which affect a person’s risk of developing dementia, as well as rare deterministic genes that directly cause the disease, although these are believed to account for less than 1% of dementia cases and are generally associated with early onset forms of the condition, where symptoms begin to develop before the age of 60.

‘Modifiable risk factors’ could be key to preventing 40% of dementia cases

Research suggests, however, that there are also at least 12 modifiable risk factors, where our lifestyle choices can help to reduce our risk of dementia as well as our risk of other serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It is believed that as many as 4 in 10 cases of dementia could be delayed or prevented if we were to modify all of these risk factors.

They are:

  • World Alzheimer's Month will focus on raising awareness of the benefits of healthy lifestyle and brain habits such as regular physical activityRegular physical activity is beneficial for your heart, circulation, weight and mental health and wellbeing. It’s therefore recommended that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. Maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the best ways individuals can reduce their risk of dementia.
  • Smoking significantly increases your risk of developing a number of health problems, such as cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes and dementia. If you smoke, quitting is a key way in which you can reduce your risk, even if you quit in later life.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of developing dementia and more than 200 other diseases and injuries. Alcohol misuse is associated with a range of mental and behavioural disorders as well as many noncommunicable diseases. Reducing the amount you drink or getting support to quit drinking completely can greatly reduce your risk.
  • There is a growing body of research which suggests that air pollution can greatly increase the risk of dementia. This has led to calls for policymakers across the world to expedite improvements in air quality, focusing particularly on areas with high air pollution.
  • Suffering a serious head injury can greatly increase the risk that an individual will go on to develop dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease International states that policymakers should use public health and other policy measures to reduce head injuries, which are most commonly caused by car, motorcycle and bicycle accidents; military explosives; sports such as boxing, football and hockey; firearms and violent assaults; and falls.
  • Infrequent social contact can significantly increase the risk of dementia. Social contact helps to enhance our cognitive reserve and can also encourage beneficial behaviours. Alzheimer’s Disease International suggests that individuals may want to consider joining a club or community group to help them stay socially active.
  • Receiving a low level of education during early life can affect cognitive reserve and is one of the most significant risk factors for developing dementia later in life. Policymakers are urged to prioritise a good quality childhood education for all.
  • Obesity, particularly in midlife, is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia as well as a range of other diseases. Individuals should focus on making positive lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy, balanced diet and making regular exercise a part of their weekly routine in order to address this risk.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) during mid-life is known to increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, as well as a host of other health problems. In fact, medication for hypertension is the only known effective preventive medication for dementia.
  • Living with Type 2 Diabetes is a clear risk factor for developing dementia in later life. It is currently unclear whether any particular medication can help to reduce this risk, but effective treatment of diabetes is very important for a number of other health reasons.
  • Depression is also associated with a greater risk of dementia. Depression forms part of the prodrome of dementia, meaning it is a symptom that often occurs before the symptoms that are used for a dementia diagnosis become evident. It is not clear to what extent dementia may be caused by depression or vice versa, and many researchers believe that both may be true. Either way, it is clear that managing and treating depression is vitally important. Depression is associated with increased disability, physical illnesses and worse outcomes generally for people with dementia.
  • People with a hearing impairment have a significantly increased risk of going on to develop dementia. The use of hearing aids is believed to help reduce this risk. Hearing loss is a risk factor which affects most people as they age, so researchers believe that addressing it could have a significant impact on the number of people developing dementia.

World Alzheimer’s Day

Many people will complete memory walks to raise funds and awareness this World Alzheimer's MonthDue to be published on 21st September, this year’s World Alzheimer Report will provide even greater understanding of the vital steps that everyone can take to reduce their risk of dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK has also launched its ‘Think Brain Health Check-In’ service online to help individuals explore brain healthy habits and understand how they can help reduce their risk of developing dementia in later life.

The 21st September is also World Alzheimer’s Day. Part of the global awareness month, this day has become a focal point with many organisations and charities, such as the Alzheimer’s Society, organising memory walks, fundraisers and awareness activities to take place on this day.

People are also encouraged to get involved by sharing a post on social media on 21st September with the hashtag #WorldAlzheimersDay.

World Alzheimer’s Month helps ‘amplify efforts’ for dementia-friendly communities

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is marking World Alzheimer’s Month 2023 by sharing blogs about dementia, dementia-friendly communities and things we can all do to support people living with dementia.

In her blog post, one committee member, who is also a PhD Researcher exploring dementia-friendly communities in Northern Ireland, says:

“World Alzheimer’s Month serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. In the heart of our communities, these challenges become even more pronounced as the need for understanding, compassion, and a dementia-friendly community grows stronger.”

Stephanie Craig, a Registered Nurse, continues:

“It’s essential to recognise the pivotal roles that nurses play in supporting individuals living with dementia within our communities. Nurses are at the forefront of promoting dementia awareness, creating a friendlier environment, and delivering compassionate care to those affected by dementia.”

Stating World Alzheimer’s Month provides an opportunity for nurses to “amplify their efforts,” she explains how dementia-friendly communities can benefit people with dementia and their loved ones.

Stephanie says:

“Promoting dementia awareness is crucial to dismantling misconceptions surrounding the condition. Educating community members about dementia’s various forms and symptoms can lead to more empathetic interactions. Simple actions like using clear language, offering assistance when needed, and practising patience can make a world of difference to someone living with dementia.”

She also explains:

“Training for businesses, local organisations, and community members can help build a more sensitive and understanding support network.”

Essential training for dementia awareness and understanding

Training can help people provide effective support for people with dementiaFirst Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider.

They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safetyfirst aidfire safetyfood safetymental healthhealth and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards specially designed for health and social care workers, such as Dementia Awareness, Safeguarding Adults, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Person Centred Care and Support, Dignity in Care and many others.

Their course portfolio spans Care Certificate standardsmandatory training awards, clinical skillsspecial focus courses and training for supervisors and managers.

A Trainer at FRT, says:

“Around 900,000 people in the UK are affected by dementia and researchers anticipate that this will increase to 1.6 million people by 2040.

“There is currently no cure for the disease but there are treatments available to help manage symptoms and lots of specialist support for people and their families.

“As research highlighted by Alzheimer’s Disease International and others makes clear, there are also lots of measures people can take to significantly reduce their risk of developing dementia or to help to slow the progress of the disease when they have already been diagnosed. Lifestyle changes can make all the difference, and everyone should ensure they are fully informed about risk reduction strategies when it comes to dementia by reading all the information that’s available this World Alzheimer’s Month.

“Training in dementia awareness is key for all individuals working in health and social care and can help ensure that care provided for people is safe, effective, compassionate, person-centred and dignified.”

Key signs and symptoms of dementia can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Poor concentration
  • Mood changes
  • Self-neglect
  • Weight loss
  • Perception changes
  • Sensory loss
  • Depression
  • Incontinence
  • Behavioural changes
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Communication difficulties

For more information on the training provided by FRT, please call them on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to