New campaign launched as dementia tops the list of health worries in Wales

The findings of a survey about dementia are published today as the Minister for Health and Social Services launches a new campaign designed to helped everyone in Wales take simple steps to reduce their risk of developing dementia (external link).

People are being encouraged to act now to reduce their risk as the latest figures show 42,000 people aged 30 or over are currently living with dementia in Wales. The risk of developing dementia increases with age – as more people are living longer, the number of people developing dementia will grow.  

Despite almost half of people surveyed (48%) believing there is nothing which can reduce the risk of developing dementia, evidence shows that a healthier lifestyle can reduce the risk by up to 60%. Making simple lifestyle changes, which are also good for the heart and lungs, will be good for the brain too.

The campaign, which will be launched across Wales with forget-me-not flowers projected onto landmark buildings in North and South Wales, encourages people to take six simple steps to reduce the risk of dementia.

The campaign calls on us to ACT NOW:

  • Active (physically and socially)
  • Check your health regularly
  • Try new things
  • No to smoking
  • Occasional alcohol in moderation
  • Watch your weight

Last year, the Welsh Government committed £5.5m a year in extra funding to improve dementia support services in Wales and set new ambitious diagnosis targets. This year an extra £30m will be invested in older people’s mental health, which will include new support for dementia.

One person who has gone some way to change their lifestyle to help improve their health and reduce their dementia risk is 51-year-old Debbie James from Bridgend:

“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors – a few years ago I joined an outdoor fitness group called Forces Fitness where we did circuit type training in the local park.  It helped me get fit and had a really good social side to it.  This then led me to get into cycling and I joined the Breeze Cycling Network which involved going out on bike rides with other ladies, and I then went on to set up my own ladies cycling group called Broadlands Ladies and Bikes.  However, I wouldn’t call myself ‘sporty’, I’m just conscious that I want to take care of my health and wellbeing to help increase my chances of leading a longer, healthier and happy life ahead of me.  

“For a while my exercise took a bit of a back seat as I was looking after my mum who had dementia.  It took a lot out of me and I really missed the physical and social aspects of the classes I had been doing.  Sadly my mum passed away in October last year.  Since then I’ve got back into cycling with a group of local women.  We meet up regularly to go for a cycle, and always stop for a coffee and a chat.  As well as doing it for the physical health activity, I also do it for the social side.  It’s great to be with like-minded people and have someone to have a chat to and share things with.  I feel it really helps my over-all well-being.

“Having seen dementia first hand, and also currently going through it with my mother-in-law, I would recommend to everyone, however young you are, to get out there and be more active.  You don’t have to be an athlete to join a local group, and there are so many social benefits as well.  Who knows what the future holds, but we can all do something to keep ourselves as fit and healthy as possible.”

Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“The risk of dementia increases with age and as more people are living longer, the number of people developing dementia will grow. You are never too young to take some simple steps to improve both your physical and mental health as you age and hopefully reduce your risk of dementia and other diseases.

“We are committed to reducing the impact of dementia. That is why we are investing extra money; taking action to increase diagnosis rates and improve support for those with dementia.”

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