Today’s Star Columnist: Dr Mary Wren

Columnist Dr Mary Wren.
Columnist Dr Mary Wren.
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Recent news has shown that dementia is the leading cause of death for women and the third highest cause for men.

This may be because doctors recognise it more or because people are living longer and surviving things like heart disease better.

In dementia the brain cells wear out and no longer function properly. This typically affects memory but can also affect emotions, sense of time and behaviour.

It is important to recognise that there are different types of dementia and in some cases it is possible to reverse the effects. Checking for causes that can be remedied such as thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies is important. A person may not drinking enough, have high sugar levels or salt imbalance. There can be reactions to medications or lack of oxygen because of heart and lung problems. So if you or someone you know is experiencing memory problems then seek help.

It is also important to remember that the person is still there, even if their brain is not functioning like it used to. It can be difficult for the person and also family and friends to cope with the change in brain function – as it can seem like the person themselves gets lost and changed.

It has been reported that a cup of cocoa at night can reduce symptoms in dementia – there are some concerns about the reliability of the evidence but it is interesting to think about diet generally and to have a healthy, balanced diet. There is much we don’t yet know about the effects of the food we eat. Exercising regularly is beneficial and engaging in activities to keep the mind active – puzzles and crosswords etc. can help. Medication can be prescribed to limit the progress of dementia.

There is a lot of support available through the Alzheimer’s society, which has a local branch in Sheffield.

Helpful information can be found online including through the Sheffield Mental Health Guide or through citizen advice bureaus.

There is a book that several carers of people with dementia have recommended called Embracing Dementia – a call to love. It is available online.

As in any chronic illness there are some things that really help – honesty, using support, keeping a balance in life and always keeping hope.