A public survey by the Alzheimer’s Society has revealed a “shocking lack of understanding” about dementia, with a third of people believing the condition is a natural part of ageing.
Only 52% of the 2,000 people who participated realised there was no cure for the terminal condition, and a quarter thought, wrongly, that there was no way to reduce the risk of contracting it.
The charity published the findings today as part of Dementia Awareness Week, which aims to encourage people to make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of dementia.
However, the survey revealed little awareness of common risk factors such as smoking and high blood pressure.
Only 35% believed that smoking increased the risk of dementia, and a quarter said obesity would do the same.
By contrast, nearly three-quarters thought family history was a key factor in the chances of contracting dementia, although this is true in “relatively few cases”, according to the charity.
Despite the fact that there is no evidence to suggest mental illness increased the risk, 45% thought this was the case.
Dementia “robs people of their lives”
Sarah Day, head of public health at the Alzheimer’s Society, said there was “still a shocking lack of understanding” about dementia.
“The truth is dementia is not a natural part of ageing; it is caused by diseases of the brain and robs people of their lives.”
She added that the risk of dementia could be reduced by staying active, eating healthily, giving up smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and having regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks.