340,000 people took our Brain Health Check-in – here’s what we’ve learnt

Woman holding a mug and smiling. She is in a group of people in an office.

By Alzheimer's Research UK | Wednesday 01 May 2024

It’s been more than a year since we launched the Think Brain Health Check-in. This is our online tool to help people explore their brain healthy habits and take action to reduce their risk of dementia.

We’re thrilled that more than 340,000 people have completed the Check-in and taken the first step on their journey towards better brain health.

It’s been fascinating learning more about people’s understanding of brain health, and the opportunities we have to help people give back to their brains even more.

Let’s explore the five biggest lessons we’ve learnt so far.

Everyone’s in the same boat

A year into the Big Brain Health Check-in, it’s clear that most of us have an opportunity to show our brains some love.

In fact, 94% of people who completed the Check-in have room to improve in one or more areas.

The Check-in is split into three sections, each of which is based on one of our simple rules for brain health.

These are:

  1. Love your heart – what’s good for your heart is good for your brain, staying active or eating well, for example.
  2. Stay sharp – taking time for your mental wellbeing and doing things to challenge your brain.
  3. Keep connected – maintaining and building social connections with the people around us.

Nearly 70% of people who completed the Check-in are already doing well at rule number three – keeping connected. This means they’re regularly doing things to socialise with the people around them.

The nation’s biggest opportunities for improvement then, are taking steps to love our hearts and keep our brains sharp.

Take physical activity, for example. More than half of people who completed the Check-in could help protect their brain health by doing a little more physical activity every week, in line with NHS advice.

 

Chart showing 82% of people have room for improvement in love your heart.

Men and women have different strengths

When we look how the results differ between men and women, it’s clear that we tend to have different strengths.

There are similarities in some areas. For example, a similar proportion of men and women – around a fifth (20%) – who completed the Check-in say they’re taking all the right steps to look after their hearts.

This includes things like not smoking, eating a balanced diet and keeping active.

But women seem a little more likely to keep connected to those around them. That’s because nearly three-quarters of women (72%) say they regularly meet or speak to friends, colleagues, or family and have no concerns about their hearing, compared to just under two-thirds of men (64%).

And crucially, 25% of men are scored ‘room for improvement’ in all three sections of the Check-in, compared to 20% of women.

Everyone has different strengths and preferences when it comes to looking after their brain health, but that’s why the personalised approach of the Check-in is so valuable.

You’ll learn all about your individual brain healthy habits, and the little things you can do to give back to your brain.

The surprising link between hearing loss and dementia

Research shows that hearing loss could increase a person’s risk of developing dementia in later life. That’s according to an important report by experts on dementia risk factors.

Feedback shows that many people who took the Check-in were surprised by this link. And of the 36% of people who said they had concerns about their hearing in the past, almost two-thirds haven’t taken any action to protect it.

 

Pie chart showing that 36% of people have had concerns about their hearing.

 

There’s lots more research to be done on the link between hearing loss and dementia. We’re working with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) to fund important projects in this area.

But it’s clear that protecting our hearing is a good way to look after our brains.

If you’re worried about your hearing, why not take the RNID’s free online hearing check? Over 9,300 people have completed it as a result of taking the Check-in so far. You can find it here.

You can also find out more by reading our previous article on how hearing affects dementia risk.

Many of us are struggling with sleep

It’s well known that sleep plays an important role in maintaining good mental and physical health.

There’s also emerging evidence suggesting that poor sleep over a long period of time may be linked with an increased risk of dementia, though more research is needed to get to the bottom of this.

Based on what we know so far, it’s likely that any negative effects might only emerge after several months or years of poor sleep – so in most cases, a few bad nights’ sleep are nothing to worry about.

 

Bar chart showing that 61% of people get less than 7 hours of sleep a night.

 

Scientists aren’t sure exactly how sleep and dementia might be linked, or whether disrupted sleep is a very early symptom of dementia, as opposed to something that increases our risk. But how much sleep we get, and how good that sleep is, is influenced by many things including some health conditions and can be difficult to manage.

With more than 60% of Check-in respondents getting less than the NHS’ recommended seven hours a night, there may be things you can do to improve your sleep and help protect your brain health.

These could include keeping regular sleep hours, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed.

For more advice on managing your sleep, please visit the NHS website.

Make brain health work for you

The biggest thing we’ve learnt over the last year is that taking steps to look after our brain health doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it’s easy to adapt it to your likes and life.

Thousands of people have said they’re already started slotting brain healthy habits into their daily life. One person told us they’ve started walking more with their new dog, while another is using Wordle to challenge their brain on a daily basis!

Others have set themselves the challenge of getting more sleep every night, or looking after their hearts by getting a blood pressure check.

We’re grateful to everyone who has got in touch to share their feedback about the Check-in. One person to do so is Liz Little, Internal Communications Manager at our corporate partner, The Perfume Shop:

“The Check-in was the perfect tool to help find out what changes I could make to my lifestyle to protect my brain health.

“It’s super informative and easy to do, and encouraged me to make healthier choices to potentially reduce my risk of developing dementia in later life.”

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Alzheimer's Research UK