Five things we’ve learnt about the nation’s brain health
By Nathan Choat | Friday 19 May 2023
With so many learning about their brain health and the ways they can help reduce their risk of dementia, we’ve been given a valuable glimpse into the nation’s brain healthy habits.
Here are five things we’ve learnt so far.
1. We’re all in this together.
Firstly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, over 90% of us who completed the Check-in could do more to give back to our brains.
The Check-in is split into three sections based on our simple rules for better brain health – Stay sharp, Keep connected and Love your heart. Of these, people seem to be doing particularly well at keeping connected. It’s great to see that 68% of people are giving back to their brains by staying in touch with the people around them and looking after their hearing.
On the other hand, most of us could be doing more to look after our hearts, with only one fifth of people having no opportunities to improve in this area.
Giving back to your brain doesn’t have to be daunting – it’s all about starting small and making changes you can build upon. Check out our brain health tips for some simple places to start.
2. Most of us are struggling to get enough shuteye.
Although everyone’s different, the NHS suggests that adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep a night. But responses to the Check-in show that 60% of us could be catching some more Z’s.
Sleep is a great way to stay sharp, and studies have suggested that regularly getting enough of it could help reduce our risk of developing dementia. The NHS has helpful advice on how to get more sleep, such as keeping regular sleep hours and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed.
However, we also know that sleep quality is impacted by many things, including certain health conditions, and is often difficult to manage. Plus, it’s thought that negative effects are only seen after several months or years of poor sleep.
We’re funding research to help us discover more about the link between sleep and dementia. This includes a project by Dr Stephanie Brown, who’s looking into how sleep affects brain changes in people with Down’s Syndrome.
Interested in finding out more? Then watch our Lab Notes event, where leading researchers in the field discuss their pioneering work on the topic.
3. Many found the link between dementia and hearing loss surprising.
Although the nature of the relationship is still not fully understood, scientists have identified a link between hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia. Many people have told us that they were surprised learn this.
Interestingly, of the 36% of people who said they had concerns about their hearing, 64% told us they had not yet taken any action.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding research to build our understanding of how hearing loss affects dementia risk, as well as working to make more people aware of it. One thing we want to do is make it easier for people to get a hearing check. This could be achieved by including a simple test in the NHS Health Check, a free check-up designed to help spot early signs of health conditions like dementia.
If you’re worried about your hearing, why not try the Royal National Institute for Deaf People’s online hearing check? We’re delighted that over 5,000 people have used this fantastic tool after completing the Check-in – all you need is a pair of headphones.
4. Women are more likely to check-in on their brain health.
The Think Brain Health Check-in was designed to help everyone understand their personal brain health habits, regardless of sex or gender identity. However, since its launch in January, we’ve seen that women are much more likely to complete the Check-in than men.
We’ve also noticed some interesting differences between the responses of men and women. Men are more likely to have room for improvement in the Keep Connected section than their female counterparts.
It’s brilliant that the Check-in is resonating so strongly with women, and we’re focussed on making sure this continues. However, as we look towards the future, we’re keen to find more ways to connect with men. We also want to identify any specific challenges we can address in future campaigns and research.
5. People are already taking action.
The Check-in has inspired countless people to take action. An incredible 80% of respondents to our survey said they’ve already taken steps to look after their brains!
There’s no one size fits all approach to boosting your brain health, and it’s been inspiring to read people’s personal pledges. From getting started with Pilates to booking a hearing test or getting stuck into a good book, every step you take really can make a difference.
This Dementia Action Week is a perfect opportunity to take action and make a brain health pledge of your own. Visit our website to complete the Check-in and begin your brain health journey today.