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Physio staff welcome chance to cut rates of dementia and back ‘Blackfriars Consensus’

6 June 2014 - 3:46pm

A national focus on healthy living to prevent dementia is needed, according to an influential alliance of organisations.

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Physical activity can help to reduce the risk of dementia

The call for a new policy initiative was made in a joint consensus agreement between the UK Health Forum – a group of 59 organisations from the dementia and public health communities – together with Public Health England.

Known as the Blackfriars Consensus Statement, the statement was published on 20 May with accompanying correspondence in The Lancet. It says that there is now sufficient evidence to justify action to incorporate dementia risk reduction into national health policies and to raise wider awareness about the factors that can reduce the risk of developing dementia.

The statement highlights the need for action to tackle physical inactivity, smoking, drinking, and poor diet. With the consequent reductions in raised blood pressure, blood cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, from three to 20 per cent of predicted new cases of dementia could be prevented over the next 20 years, it suggests.

These gains are likely to be greater if combined with action to protect brain health throughout life — including addressing alcohol and substance abuse and head injuries in adolescents and young people; supporting lifelong learning and improved workplace health in middle life; and improving social interactions, stimulation, and supportive care in later life, it said.

Paul Lincoln, UK Health Forum chief executive, said: ‘Preventing and promoting brain health has been a relatively neglected concept until now. The consensus today is that what is good for the heart is good for the brain. In other words, effective public health policies to tackle major chronic disease risk factors of smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol and poor diet across the population will help to reduce the risk of dementia later in life.’

Agile, the CSP professional network for older people, backed the call. Its chair Vicky Johnston said: ‘We welcome any opportunity to raise the focus on reducing risk of dementia, and increasing awareness of how physical activity can improve brain function. Physiotherapists working with all age groups are well placed to encourage and motivate people to increase activity, and we should make every contact count towards this goal.

‘Recent information gathered from Dementia Awareness Week (which ran from 19 to 24 May) has shown that many people fear the onset of dementia more than cardiac disease or cancer, and raising awareness of how to reduce risk have the potential to encourage increased physical activity levels.’


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