Tag Archives: Older people

New cases of dementia in the UK fall by 20% over two decades

The UK has seen a 20% fall in the incidence of dementia over the past two decades, according to research by the University of Cambridge. However, the study suggests that the dramatic change has been observed mainly in men.

Some good news on the dementia front

While the media has suggested that the number of people with dementia is set to mushroom as the population ages, several recent studies have suggested the picture is more complex. Measures which improve health such smoking reduction and attention to diet and exercise may be driving a reduction in risk.

The researchers found that the incidence of dementia – the proportion of people developing dementia in a given period – across two decades has dropped by 20%. These findings suggest that in the UK there are fewer than 210,000 new cases per year compared to an anticipated 250,000 new cases based on previous levels.

It is not clear why rates among men have declined faster than those among women, though it is possible that it is related to the drop in smoking and vascular health improving in men.

A new hope for arthritis patients?

A new hope for arthritis patients?

Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions could be helped by new insights into how the body’s immune response is switched off.

A new hope for arthritis patients?

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have discovered how compounds produced by the immune system help to prevent inflammation and damage to healthy tissues. The compounds – called alpha defensins – are part of the body’s first line of defence against infection. They help to stop bacteria and other infectious agents from reproducing.

Alpha defensins are released by immune cells called neutrophils when they die. They are then taken up by other immune cells called macrophages, and prevent them from producing messenger molecules called cytokines, which drive inflammation.

The overall effect is to limit inflammation without compromising the body’s ability to fight infection. The findings could lead to new treatments for chronic inflammatory disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when the immune system attacks the joints.

Dementia will affect 1 in 3 people in the UK

Unless more is done to tackle dementia, one in three people born in the UK today will develop the disease in their lifetime, warns a recent report from Alzheimer’s Research UK. It suggests 27 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women born in 2015 will develop the condition.

Caring for our loved ones. It may be us one day.

Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and is caused by brain diseases, most commonly Alzheimer’s, which result in the loss of brain cells and impair the brain’s ability to function properly.

Since age is the biggest risk factor for dementia – the condition is most common among those aged 65 and older – rising dementia rates have been attributed to increases in life expectancy.

Previous research by Alzheimer’s Research UK suggests the number of dementia cases could be reduced by a third if onset of the condition could be delayed by five years. But experts claim lack of funding for dementia research is one of the greatest barriers to prevention and treatment for the condition.

Spare a thought for your older relatives

‘A Chinese proverb states that ‘an elderly person at home is like a living golden treasure’. At the moment, around 40% of Chinese older people live with their children, but in Beijing they have a policy to increase that to 90% by 2020.

Spare a thought for your older relatives
Spare a thought for your older relatives

‘China even passed a new ‘elderly rights law’ against ‘neglecting or snubbing elderly people’, which mandates that people should visit their elderly parents often, no matter how far away they live, with fines or prison sentences as penalties.

‘Western traditions would rightly resist state interference on this scale. But France too passed an elderly care law in 2004 requiring its citizens to keep in touch with their elderly parents. They did this after a heatwave left 15,000 elderly dead, many of whom were left for weeks before they were found.’

These words are taken verbatim from a recent speech by the Health Secretary for England Jeremy Hunt. Given the growing number of pensioners and squeezed social care budgets, he was asking whether we should take more personal responsibility for our families – and looking at how other countries managed.

Even modest exercise helps the elderly

Even short periods of low intensity exercise can benefit life expectancy for elderly people.

For the average person an exercise program of 30 minutes for five days a week (or 150 minutes per week) has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 30%. However, the ‘pros and cons’ of exercise for elderly people has not been so clearly determined.

Now, a French study has shown that in the elderly the risk of death also decreases with greater and more regular exercise. Over 1,000 people were enrolled in the study at age 65 in 2001 and followed-up for 13 years. Although 10% died during this period, the risk of death was calculated to be 57% lower in those whose activity level was equal to or higher than 150 minutes a week.

There were other significant findings too – notably that starting or restarting physical activity during retirement reduced the risk of death by two-thirds.

As a simple rule at least 15 minutes of physical activity for five days a week would be a suitable first target for the elderly. This could include brisk walking, cycling or swimming. Ask your pharmacist if you need advice.


Dementia hits women the hardest

The impact of dementia is being felt disproportionately by women, according to the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK.


Not only has dementia become the leading cause of death among women, but women are more likely to become carers of people with dementia, the charity says.

Currently 850,000 people are living with dementia across the UK and 61% of them are women. The condition, which is caused by brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, results in distressing symptoms including memory loss, confusion and personality changes, which get worse over time.

Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in the UK, accounting for 12% of women’s deaths in 2013.

Between 60 and 70% of all unpaid dementia carers are women, and women are more than twice as likely to provide intensive, 24-hour care than men.

Beware of falling over too often

Injuries from falls are a common and serious problem for older people, with 30% of people over 65 years, and 50% of those over 80 falling at least once a year. Dealing with the consequences of falls costs the NHS a whopping £2.3 billion per year.

Man falling over

Those at particularly high risk of falling include people:

• With two or more risk factors (muscle weakness, poor balance, visual deficit, concentration problems, arthritis)
• taking more than three medicines
• affected by orthostatic hypotension – a sharp fall in blood pressure when moving to a standing position, often caused by medication, causing dizziness.

Falls can be caused by almost any drug that acts on the brain or the circulation, so if you, or an elderly relative you care for, are concerned ask your pharmacist if you can have a medicines use review. This is an NHS service your pharmacy offers which will look at what the medicine is for, how you are taking it, whether it is effective, and whether there are any side-effects.

If it is appropriate to reduce the number of medicines you are taking, or change the dosage your pharmacist will advise you to see your GP.

Find swallowing tablets difficult?

Scientists at the University of Huddersfield are pioneering the use of a special gel that can be used to give medicines to young children and the elderly – groups who often have difficulty swallowing pills and capsules.

Swallowing pill

The gel medicine is made from gellan gum, a natural compound that has been used in foodstuffs until now. It consists of microscopic gel particles which collectively are pourable and can be administered with a spoon. But in the stomach the gel solidifies. This means the drug is not released there, where it would have little effect or even irritate the stomach, but later in the intestine over the course of several hours.

The research is a response to the increasing demand for ‘age appropriate’ drugs. It is important because a major reason for people not taking their medicines properly is the dosage form – be it a tablet, liquid or cream. So if you are having trouble taking your medicines for this reason, speak to your pharmacist. They may be able to suggest an alternative approach.

Walking football all the rage for the grey wave?

The banks may have more to answer for than plunging the country into financial crisis. The new sporting craze of ‘walking football’ was created in 2011 to help keep older players involved in the game for longer, and rose to prominence after featuring in an banking advert last year.

Walking football

Games are played at a slower pace to reduce the threat of pain, discomfort and injury, with players briskly walking through matches and reaping a multitude of health benefits along the way, according to Aston University researchers.

In an ageing society, with rising levels of obesity and the growing numbers of people with late onset diabetes, this more sedentary version of the beautiful game has the potential to make a significant impact.

In the UK around 22% of men die before the age of 65. Although physically active men have a 20-30% reduced risk of premature death, by the age of 55-64 only 32% of men say they take the recommended half hour of exercise five times a week.

If you have itchy feet go to www.walkingfootballunited.co.uk to find a club near you.