Just obey five rules and you’ll be less prone to dementia in old age, the media reported on Monday. Exercise, above all; cut out booze and fags; and diet healthily, down to a good body mass index. Obey, and you’ll cut your risk of dementia by two thirds, we were told.
In its varied forms, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent, dementia is a real problem in society. However, when the government-funded Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer’s Society and the British Heart Foundation commission research to grab headlines, then their mythmaking and their paternal ‘nudges’ to our lifestyles are also a real problem.
These dementia dictats aren’t based on any new evidence. They’re old pieces of policy, garnished with meddlesome mayonnaise. Here’s what happened.
In a March 2012 report, Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, UK prime minister David Cameron noted that, in England, 670,000 people suffer from dementia. Still, his report hoped that the UK would ‘be a world leader in dementia care and research’. By May 2013, the Department of Health and the Alzheimer’s Society published a progress report on dementia, observing: ‘We will use our presidency of the G8 to help shape an effective international response.’ Within months, a G8 ‘summit’ on dementia was announced for 11 December. Then, a long-running dementia study of 2,235 men from Caerphilly, Wales – men first tested when aged between 45 and 59 in 1979 – was magically given a new outing two days before the summit.
It was nice timing… from a PR point of view.