Press release

Health matters promotes midlife approaches to reduce dementia risk

Up to a third of dementia cases may be attributable to potentially modifiable lifestyle risk factors.

Health matters: dementia

Following the recent launch of Public Health England’s One You, a ground-breaking campaign to help adults across the country make simple changes to improve their health today and in the future, PHE has launched the fourth edition of Health matters: midlife approaches to reduce dementia risk.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect some 850,000 Britons and cost the economy £26 billion a year. If things continue as they are the number affected will rise to 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2050.

This latest edition of Health matters, a resource for health professionals and local government which aims to support commissioning and the delivery of local services, shows that dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing.

What is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Modifying cardiovascular risk factors has contributed to a large decline in deaths from heart disease and stroke over the past 50 years. The same could be the case for dementia.

Health matters brings together in one easily accessible package local and national level data, as well as infographics, slide sets, case studies and blogs – that will help make the case for investing in dementia risk reduction.

Using PHE’s Dementia Profile tool, for example, can help to identify local risk factors for dementia such as smoking prevalence or physical inactivity. This will help to prioritise efforts to reduce such risk factors.

Launching Health matters today, PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie said:

Dementia is a critical public health concern. In the absence of a treatment or cure, it is important that we take action to reduce the numbers of people getting dementia.

Protecting and promoting brain health has been relatively neglected. This edition of Health matters makes the case for action that will help reduce the risk of dementia in later life.

Dr Matthew Norton, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

Alzheimer’s Research UK welcomes the new Health Matters resource from Public Health England, which will help healthcare professionals raise awareness of ways the public may be able to reduce their risk of developing dementia.

In 2016, 1 person every 3 minutes will develop dementia but, recent statistics from Alzheimer’s Research UK show only a quarter of the British public believe it’s possible to reduce dementia risk.

Research has shown that dementia is caused by a complex mix of genetic and lifestyle factors but by maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking or drinking to excess, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check the risk of dementia can be lowered in some cases.

It’s important to be aware that age is still the biggest risk factor for dementia, and as there is not yet a sure-fire way to prevent the condition it’s vital we continue to invest in research into preventions, as well as better treatments for those cases that cannot be prevented.

George McNamara, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Society said:

In recent years, awareness and understanding of dementia has drastically increased - and so too has the evidence base indicating that a person can make simple lifestyle changes from midlife onwards to reduce their risk of developing the condition.

This useful resource has compiled the available evidence and helpfully identified local risk factors for dementia to support commissioners to make evidence-based decisions on what services are needed and where. Prevention is always better than cure so we commend this proactive approach to improving health across the population.

Sign up to get regular updates about Health matters.

Background information

  1. Health matters is PHE’s resource for public health professionals, which brings together important facts, figures and evidence of effective interventions to tackle major public health problems.

  2. The Health matters resource will be supported and linked to a wide range of content. Some will be released today (22 March 2016) and further content will be published throughout the coming month across a variety of channels

  3. The One You campaign aims to motivate adults, especially those in middle age, to take steps to improve their health, through action on the main risk factors such as smoking, inactivity, obesity, alcohol consumption, all of which are relevant to reducing the risk of dementia. Adults are being encouraged to take the new ‘How Are You’ quiz which provides personalized recommendations and free support tools to encourage and maintain change. Many partners from local authorities and NHS Organisations are already supporting One You. Resources for partners are available

  4. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook:

Public Health England press office

Published 22 March 2016