Dementia unfortunately causes the loss of mental abilities such as thinking, remembering and reasoning. This usually happens gradually. It can affect anyone, whatever their age, although most people who develop it are over 65. The symptoms can vary from person to person.
We know that dementia affects many families in our borough. Dementia isn't 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, hobbies and connecting with others may help to reduce your risk of developing dementia and improving your general mental wellbeing. This is important as depression can put you at a greater risk of developing conditions such as dementia.
Have a healthy diet
A balanced diet will help keep you at a healthy weight, which can reduce the likelihood of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of developing conditions like dementia. A balanced diet can also help to keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels within a healthy range, helping to prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Both of these are risk factors around 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 important for everyone, and most of it comes from sunlight on the skin. It can also be found in oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals (those containing added vitamins and minerals). Vitamin D is important in preventing diseases including osteoporosis.
Those with very low vitamin D levels 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 essential for brain health. Regular exercise in adults can improve some mental abilities, helping to prevent some types of dementia.
Try to do at least 30 minutes of activity that will raise your heart rate 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 dementia guide.
It is 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're concerned about dementia because you think that you may be showing some symptoms, or if you care for someone who may be affected, it's important to see a GP.
Your GP will be able to diagnose dementia and prescribe some treatment that may slow down its progress. They'll also support you to get a diagnosis from the Memory Assessment and Support Service, who may prescribe treatment which your GP will support with. There's 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 or other support services in the community.
You can contact us to get a social care assessment if you need some practical help or equipment to live at home with dementia. We have a range of assistive living technology (telecare) that can help you live safely and independently. We can advise you about services that provide respite or longer-term support, as well as advice about finding a care home that specialises in dementia care.
Support groups and local services
|Alzheimer's Society||Dementia 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|
|Crossroads Caring for Carers||Support service|
|Dementia Friends||Information and advice|
|Making Space||Support service|
|NHS Dementia Research||Research and support|