Why dementia doesn’t need to be the biggest killer

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By Hilary Evans | Tuesday 07 November 2017

Waking up to the news that dementia is now the biggest killer in the UK is devastating – particularly for the 850,000 people living with the condition, their loved ones and anyone else who has, in some way, been impacted by dementia.

Heartbreaking as these figures are, at Alzheimer’s Research UK we are sadly not surprised. We knew this day was coming: year on year, we’ve seen more people developing dementia and dying from the condition. For too long, research into dementia has been hindered by a lack of funding and by people’s misplaced belief that the condition is inevitable, and therefore incurable. As a result, people with the condition are unable to benefit from life-changing treatments. Through research, we can make sure dementia is no longer a death sentence.

The natural reaction to this news may be one of sadness and fear – but we don’t want it to be that way. What we need now is hope and confidence in research. At Alzheimer’s Research UK we believe research has the power to defeat dementia, and it’s our mission to bring about the first life-changing treatment by 2025.

We should be inspired and encouraged by the fact that each year, more people are surviving and beating serious health conditions like heart disease. And this is down to research. With a much greater investment into dementia research, we will achieve the same results.

In recent years, we’ve been making great progress. We’ve doubled the number of dementia researchers in six years, and begun to bridge the gap between the number of scientists working on cancer compared to dementia. This increase in manpower has translated into a near doubling in the number of new research findings being published each year. As a result of this progress, as well as initiatives like the Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Alliance and the UK Dementia Research Institute, we are moving closer to those desperately needed breakthroughs. But we cannot do it alone. To realise our ambition, everyone must play their part.

This progress didn’t happen by accident. We have long called on government to make dementia a national priority, and our calls were answered when David Cameron launched the first Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge five years ago. Now, we’re urging government to act again.

To defeat this devastating condition, we need to see the government’s annual dementia research funding doubled to £132m by 2022 – and this is just the minimum. It may seem like a big ask, but with dementia costing the UK economy more than heart disease and cancer combined, it is essential. If nothing is done, our already crippled health and social care systems will collapse under the pressure.

As the UK’s leading dementia research charity, we have our own role to play in this fight. We’re funding more pioneering dementia research than ever before, we’ve connected almost 2,000 scientists through our Research Network and we’re raising much-needed awareness, empowering people with essential knowledge about dementia. We’re also working with policymakers and other influential organisations, who make a vital contribution to the fightback against dementia.

You can also help us to achieve our vision of a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. There are lots of opportunities for you to get involved, from signing up to Join Dementia Research to standing alongside our 1,000 Campaigners, who are lobbying for dementia research to be a priority.

Today’s news may seem bleak, but at Alzheimer’s Research UK, our passionate scientists and supporters are helping us change the picture. It’s through research that we will be able to develop effective preventions, and offer people with dementia treatments that will mean a diagnosis is no longer terminal. With your support, we are relentless in our efforts to achieve this.


  1. beckylea smith on 22nd November 2017 at 10:18 pm

    my mother was diagnosed in 2013 with piks disease, my father and i helped her to be at home for as long as possible, however in november 2016, its was decided with professional advice that she deserved to be in a place where it catered for her specialist needs, she oftenhas seizures and this takes toll on the declining illness.

    i am mainly looking to some fundraising in the future in respect to my mothers condition and also helping the charity

  2. Pam Laurance on 24th November 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Is it that dementia is getting worse or just that people are not dying of other things so survive long enough to develop dementia?

    • Jen L on 30th November 2017 at 9:13 pm

      People are living longer causing an increase in dementia, but there is also early onset dementia/Alzheimer’s which is becoming a larger issue and this can happen to people under the age of 65. There is a major shift being seen towards this age group.

  3. Jen L on 30th November 2017 at 9:10 pm

    My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and its amazing to see the passion behind this article because many do believe that Alzheimer’s is an inevitable disease of old age. As I watched her go from a normal person to someone who doesn’t recognize her family and has major behavioral changes, I 100% believe that more needs to be done for the research of this disease. With only two main types of medications that are used in the early to moderate stages of Alzheimers, more needs to be researched so that late stages can be better treated. I live over in the United States and dementia and Alzheimer’s is becoming more and more of an issue as our population keeps getting older and older. Therefore, it is great to see that other places throughout the world see the problem just as we do.

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About the author

Hilary Evans

Hilary is Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is a charity working at a global level to find a cure for dementia. The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of the diseases that cause dementia, to increase dementia research funding and improve the environment for dementia scientists in the UK and internationally.