Have you heard of the dementia revolution? It’s been going on for 20 years now. Professor Perminder Sachdev is one of the heroes of the dementia revolution. In 2012, he co-founded the Centre of Healthy Brain Aging (CHeBA) at UNSW, which promotes brain health and prevention of dementia. He leads three longitudinal cognitive ageing studies: Sydney Memory and Ageing Study, Older Australian Twins Study, and Sydney Centenarian Study.
In 2022 Professor Sachdev was awarded the prestigious Ryman Prize for people working in the field of older people’s health.
Cast aside those old, fatalistic assumptions about dementia! That was then. This is now. In this case, knowledge is power and knowledge is also a kindness.
Professor Sachdev clearly summarised the three areas of his own dementia research to Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ, 7 February 2023. It’s a fascinating interview. (Bear in mind that the findings of these longitudinal studies in Australia are supported by others around the world, for example at Harvard: Good genes are nice, but joy is better.)
5 new-to-me facts about dementia from Professor Sachdev
- The word self-ageism is new to me. The meaning is obvious, saving a long explanation which is annoying to both the speaker and the listener.
- Centenarians studied by Professor Sachdev and colleagues are typically both optimistic (no surprise) and “contentious” — wow!
- Centenarians have a very long health-span: the extra years are healthy years almost to the end.
- The most common cause of dementia is organic disease (70% –80%?)
- Delaying the onset of dementia in the population by 5 years would halve the cost of caring for people with dementia (I heard this first at Let’s Talk About Dementia! 2022, a conference run by Dementia Wellington and Age Concern).
Good news for every age
A few basic lifestyle guidelines have a powerful impact on cardiovascular health, longevity and immune health. We know that from long term studies of hundreds of thousands of subjects. Turns out that pretty much the same old common-sense advice works for brain health too.
So there are now multiple reasons to stand up and move, eat well, sleep plenty, stimulate our brains, foster relationships, and take our meds as instructed.
You are already doing a lot of this, I know. It’s in a good cause: self interest. Plus it carries a bonus by helping with family relations, the economy, and the planet.
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