Programme to keep people socially connected may be useful to help reduce risk of dementia

26 July 2021

Scientists at UCL have developed a programme, which helps older people make lifestyle changes to support their health and hopefully reduce the risk of developing dementia through online video support groups.

Our expert’s opinion

Dr Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on people with dementia. It has been a challenging time for those living with the condition, their loved ones, and the dedicated healthcare professionals working in the best interest of their patients.

“The pandemic has also brought about widespread innovation across the sector, particularly in how research trials are run, but also in how people interact with key healthcare professionals particularly over the phone or online. It would be an oversight not to consider taking some of these findings forward as we emerge from the pandemic, and this includes how we deliver possible new approaches to help prevent dementia cases.

“Evidence shows that around forty percent of dementia cases are linked to factors that are within our power to influence.  A lack of social activity is one of a number of risk factors that also include smoking, low levels of physical, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.

“This programme from UCL demonstrates the feasibility of conducting a remote, interactive group sessions to keep people socially connected. It has been conducted in a similar way to other studies run throughout the UK, which are backed by Alzheimer’s Research UK. We must be mindful that this is a feasibility study, with only 10 people completing the full programme. To be sure approaches like this work, they need to be tested in a much larger group of people.

“Innovation also has an important role in ensuring people receive the best possible health care in the NHS. The diseases that cause dementia often begin in midlife, decades before symptoms begin to show. We strongly believe that everyone should have the awareness and knowledge about how to look after their brain health and reduce the risk of dementia. We need to be taking every opportunity to share potentially life-saving information about dementia risk reduction.

“At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we are asking people to think about their brain health and would encourage people to learn more about your incredible brain and the steps you can take to protect it by taking part in our quiz.”

Read the full research study and the programme

You can click this link to read the full research study.