Dementia: Appeal to help find a cure for Britain’s biggest killer

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Hundreds of thousands of people struck down by the disease are needed for studies with the organisation Join Dementia Research as scientists look for a breakthrough. There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK but that number is set to rocket to more than a million by 2025. However, only a fraction have come forward to volunteer for clinical trials. Latest figures show dementia and Alzheimer’s were the leading cause of death in 2017 for the third consecutive year, accounting for more than one in eight deaths.

Some 67,641 deaths were attributed to the diseases, up from 62,948 in 2016. The trend is increasing because people are living longer and surviving other illnesses.

Writing exclusively for this newspaper, Ms Dinenage said: “If you’re reading the Daily Express today, whether you have dementia or know someone who has, I urge you to consider participating in research yourself through Join Dementia Research, or having that conversation with your loved one.

“Less than four per cent of people in England with a diagnosis are currently involved in studies but we need many, many more to help make the breakthroughs to beat this disease.”

A poll for Alzheimer’s Research UK found that half of adults did not know dementia was a cause of death, while a fifth incorrectly said it was an inevitable part of getting older.

Almost three-quarters said they would want to be given information in middle age about their personal risk of developing dementia later in life, if doctors were able to do so.

And one in nine said they would be willing to take a test administered by their GP to tell them whether they were in the very early stages of dementia.

There is currently no cure for dementia – only medication to mask the symptoms. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause, accounting for around two-thirds of cases. Two in five people say dementia is the condition they fear most.

Last year the Daily Express revealed how a funding scandal sees dementia research receive a fraction of the cash given to trying to defeat cancer.

There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK (Image: Westend61/Getty Images)

Despite being the UK’s biggest killer just £82.5million of public money was last year committed to research. The Government is committed to spending £60million a year but in contrast cancer scientists received £269million.

Ministers want to boost participation in studies to 25 per cent – or 212,500 people – through Join Dementia Research.

Meanwhile, public health chiefs have been told to hammer home the message that lifestyle can reduce dementia risk. Research shows just one per cent of people are able to name the biggest risk factors including heavy drinking and smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes.

David Reynolds of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “It’s absolutely right government works to support dementia research, not only through increased participation in studies, but also through a commitment to long-term and sustainable funding.”

The current diagnosis rate is 67.9 per cent – up from 59 per cent in 2015 – and dementia is included in free NHS general health checks for those aged between 40 and 74.

Since the launch of the 2020 Challenge on Dementia in 2012 £433million of public money has been given to accelerating progress in early detection, improved treatment, prevention and care.

Government funding worth £15million has been ploughed into the Dementia Discovery Fund and £190million to the UK Dementia Research Institute.

Jeremy Hughes of Alzheimer’s Society said: “We are right behind the care minister in her call for more people to get involved in dementia research.

“Dementia is a global health crisis. Government, charities and the pharmaceutical industry all need to work together to get more people involved in research to fight it.

“Progress has been made but we must keep our foot on the pedal.”

To register for dementia research programmes visit joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk or call Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5111.

COMMENT BY CAROLINE DINENAGE

Dementia is a global health emergency and one the Government has not shied away from tackling.

Our world leading Dementia 2020 Challenge has led to impressive progress in how we treat and support people with dementia, and now we are driving it forward to ensure we protect more people affected by this devastating condition.

dinenage

Caroline Dinenage is Minister for Care (Image: Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)

If you’re reading the Daily Express today, whether you have dementia or know someone who has, I urge you to consider participating in research yourself through Join Dementia Research, or having that conversation with your loved one. Under four per cent of people in England with a diagnosis are currently involved in studies but we need many, many more to help make the breakthroughs to beat this disease. We have invested large sums in research to drive innovation and achieve much needed breakthroughs in dementia but there is still further to go and there is still no cure.

We have made great strides in improving the awareness of our fantastic health and social care workforce and the wider public, with millions more receiving training or building their understanding by becoming a Dementia Friend.

This is central to ensuring compassionate and informed care and support, so people with dementia can continue to participate in society as valued members of our communities. With the number of people with dementia set to increase by the million over the next few years, there’s still more to do to ensure we meet the aims of the Challenge now and in the future.

I want to see improvements in how we treat younger people with the condition and raise public awareness of the risk factors.

Dementia is a societal issue – it affects us all in one way or another. A society that supports family, friends, communities and research is a society we should all want to live in and a necessity to help us tackle this condition.

Caroline Dinenage is Minister for Care



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