Dementia causes the (usually gradual) loss of mental abilities such as thinking, remembering and reasoning. It can affect anyone whatever their age, although the majority of people who develop it are over 65. The symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.
Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing and there are things we can do to reduce the risk of developing some forms of dementia:
Be mentally active
Learning new skills and hobbies, and connecting with others socially, may help to reduce your risk of developing dementia as well as improving your general mental well-being and keeping you happy and positive. This is important as people with depression are probably at a greater risk of developing dementia.
Have a healthy diet
A healthy diet will help keep you at a healthy weight, reducing the likelihood of you developing high blood pressure which can significantly increase your risk of developing dementia. A healthy diet can also keep your cholesterol and blood sugar levels within a healthy range, helping to prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Both of these are risk factors in developing dementia.
If you're between 40 and 74 years old you can have a free NHS health check at your GP surgery.
Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for healthy ageing, and most of it comes from sunlight on the skin. It can also be found in oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals, and is important in preventing diseases including osteoporosis.
Those with very low levels of vitamin D are twice as likely to develop dementia. It's advisable that you take a vitamin D supplement through the winter months; ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.
Keeping active is important for brain health. Regular exercise in middle-aged and older adults can improve memory and thinking, helping to prevent some types of dementia.
Try to do at least 30 minutes activity that will raise your heart rate on three to five days a week.
Smoking is harmful to the blood vessels in the lungs, heart and brain, increasing the risk of developing dementia by as much as 50% compared to those who have never smoked.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Drinking above the safe levels of alcohol significantly increases the risk of developing dementia, so it's important for men and women not to drink more than the recommended 14 units per week.
Sleeping well promotes good brain health. A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on the brain leading to increased risk of dementia. It's recommended that adults aged 18 to 64 should try to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
For more information on ways to keep healthy and reduce your dementia risk, visit the NHS website.
It's possible to live well with dementia; you can find out about local organisations and activities you can access on the Dementia Friendly Barnsley website.
How to get help
If you are concerned about dementia, either because you think that you may have some of these symptoms or if you are caring for someone who may be affected, it is important to see your GP. They will be able to diagnose dementia, and prescribe some treatment that may slow down its progress. They will support you to get a diagnosis from the Memory Assessment and Support Service. Where treatment is prescribed by the Memory Assessment and Support Service your GP will work with them to help you with the treatment. There is a dementia champion in every GP practice who you can speak to for more advice.
Your GP can also refer you to other dementia support services, either provided by the NHS, for example the Memory Clinic at Kendray Hospital, or support services operating within the community, such as Alzheimer’s Society.
You can contact us for a social care assessment if you need some practical help or equipment to live at home with dementia. We can advise you about care homes that specialise in dementia for respite or longer-term care. We can also advise you about services that provides respite support and need for long term support.
There is also a range of assistive technology such as Telecare equipment that can help you live safely and independently. You can also find out more about accessibility in the borough on the AccessAble website.
Support groups and local services
Alzheimer's Society - Yorkshire and Humber area
|Town centre cafe
Downloadable fact sheets
Peer support groups
'Singing for the Brain'
|Barnsley Independent Alzheimer's and Dementia Support (BIADS)||Information and advice
Practical help and support
|Barnsley Dementia Action Alliance||Information and advice|
|Butterflies||Information and advice|
|Carers UK||Support for carers|
|Cross Roads Care||Support service|
|Dementia Friends||Information and advice|
|Making Space||Support service|
|NHS Dementia Research||Research and support|
|South Yorkshire Housing Association||Support service|