Love your brain with all your heart
Our 2021 Dementia Attitudes Monitor shows that although knowledge of the diseases that cause the condition is improving, understanding of how we can influence dementia risk, and particularly the link between heart and brain health, is lagging behind.
This year’s Dementia Attitudes Monitor, our survey of what people in the UK think and feel about the condition, revealed that although understanding is improving on several fronts, there’s still a great deal of work to be done when it comes to our dementia risk.
First, just a third (33%) of UK adults think it’s possible to influence their risk of developing dementia, with men more likely to think it’s possible to do so than women (37% compared to 30%). This is compared to more than three quarters who realise they can reduce their risk of developing diabetes.
This means that the message of positivity at the heart of our Think Brain Health campaign remains as important as ever: just as we can protect other areas of our health, we can take steps to look after our brain health and reduce our risk of developing dementia in later life.
The link between heart and brain health
The Monitor also highlighted limited awareness of the different factors that can increase our risk, with more than half (56%) of people unable to identify any major risk factors*.
Awareness is greatest around the importance of activities that help us stay sharp. ‘Being less mentally active’ was the most common response (mentioned by 22%) when participants were asked to consider what could increase a person’s dementia risk.
But despite lots of research evidence telling us that what’s good for our heart is good for our brain, understanding of this link is mixed. Nearly one in five people (19%) identified poor diet as a risk factor for dementia, but just 3% named high blood pressure and 2% mentioned heart disease.
There’s clearly an opportunity to make more people aware of the relationship between heart and brain health. That’s why Love your heart is the first of our three simple rules for better brain health, alongside Stay sharp and Keep connected.
Give your brain some love
You’re probably familiar with some of the things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease, including being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
The good news is, by doing these things you’ll also be helping to keep your brain healthy, and research tells us that it’s never too early or late in life to take steps that can help reduce our dementia risk.
We know it can be difficult to stay motivated as the days become shorter and the weather colder, but this can be a great time to find a new focus – whether experiencing the season’s colours on a long walk, cooking up healthy, hearty autumnal recipes, or even taking on a physical challenge like Running Down Dementia.
Whatever you choose, your heart – and your brain – will thank you for it.
* 56% of participants unable to identify any of seven major risk factors from the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey (namely, heavy drinking, smoking, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and genetic factors, alongside the protective factor of taking regular exercise).