'Use it or lose it' to protect brain from disease
'Use it or lose it' to protect brain from disease

Simple changes that could save thousands from dementia

SIMPLE lifestyle changes could save more than 80,000 people a year from dementia, a major global report has said.   The research suggests action should be taken much earlier in life to combat diseases such as Alzheimer's, amid evidence that deterioration of the brain starts in the 40s.  

The findings of the report will be presented to the World Innovation Summit for Health in Doha in February, the Daily Telegraph has reported.  

It triggered a call from summit chair and former UK Labour health minister Lord Darzi for the public to take a "use it or lose it approach" to the health of their brains.  

The report claims that 80,294 cases of dementia might be prevented in Britain if steps were taken to reduce blood pressure in midlife, through simple changes to diet and exercise regimes.  

Estimates suggest that there are around 800,000 dementia sufferers in the UK, although just under half are not formally diagnosed.  

Writing in the Telegraph, Lord Darzi urged people to "act now" to change their diet and exercise habits and to stimulate their mental capacity through activities such as solving puzzles.  

"The degenerative brain condition that strips sufferers of their dignity and humanity is among the most feared of all those that afflict our species," he writes. "It is one of the greatest health challenges we face."  

"At an individual level we need to look after our brains - sharpen those chess skills, pick up that crossword and solve that puzzle," he suggests. "Eating a healthy diet, avoiding obesity and getting plenty of exercise are all important to brain health because what is good for our hearts is also good for our heads."