Miriam Margoyles, 80, who has lived on her own over lockdown admitted that she is alone. Her partner Heather lives in Amsterdam and the long-distance relationship is taking its toll on the actress. She said: I’m alone and it’s horrible. I’m lonely, depressed and anxious. I don’t know what we’re going to do, because we’re never going to get out of this.
The actress bravely revealed her personal experiences with the disease and how it has affected her outlook on getting older: “It is worrying. Anybody who has had any experience of looking after someone with Alzheimer’s, seeing them gradually disappear from you.
“It’s a terrible thing. Old age is a horrible business. Dementia is a horrible business.
“We need to be kind and loving and understanding and know more about it. The more attention it gets, the better.”
Statistics from 2019 show that over 850,000 people in the UK have dementia. This represents one in every 14 of the population aged 65 and over. Based on this data and Miriam’s age it is understandable that the actress is worried for her own health.
If the current rate of prevalence continues, by 2040 there will be over 1.5 million people within dementia in the UK.
Symptoms of dementia
Due to the progressive nature of the disease, symptoms develop gradually over many years and eventually they will become severe. When symptoms do appear they affect multiple brain functions.
According to the NHS the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease is usually minor memory problems. As the condition develops this could turn into forgetting recent conversations, events or forgetting the names of objects, places or people.
More severe symptoms include:
- Confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
- Difficulty planning or making decisions
- Problems with speech and language
- Problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks
- Personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are untrue)
- Low mood or anxiety.
Who is at risk?
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia increases with age. Genetics also plays a role, and for some developing the disease is sadly inevitable.
Talking to Express.co.uk, Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “In very rare cases a person may inherit a gene from their parents that does not work properly and will ultimately cause dementia. This faulty gene can cause a person to develop a disease no matter what other risk factors they have. Around one percent of all dementia cases are inherited, including rare types of Alzheimer’s disease and some cases of frontotemporal dementia.
“For most of us our chances of developing dementia comes down to a complicated mix of age, lifestyle factors and genetics. This is where risk genes come in. Risk genes are small changes in genes that can influence our likelihood of getting a disease.
“Researchers have identified around 30 different genes associated with Alzheimer’s risk. Certain versions of these genes are associated with higher risk, others with lower risk. Our own genetic risk depends on which combination of risk genes we inherit.
“Sadly, as genetics still plays an important role in influencing the risk of Alzheimer’s, there will always be people who address many or all of these lifestyle factors and still develop the disease, which is why it’s also essential that we continue to fund research into life-changing treatments. While we can’t change the genes we inherit, research shows that relatively simple changes to the way we live can still help to stack the odds in our favour.”
Identifying the genetic risk of Alzheimer’s Dr Sancho also stressed the importance of lifestyle choices to try and minimise individual risk. She said that research from the University of Exeter have found that living a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of a person’s genetic predisposition.
Experts therefore recommend that such things as eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping physically and mentally active, not smoking, drinking in moderation, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check and maintaining a healthy weight are “all ways to support healthy brain ageing”.
Alzheimer’s Research UK are also always researching into effective and permanent treatments for the condition. Recently, US regulators have granted a licence to aducanumab – the first-ever disease modifying drug for Alzheimer’s. Following this decision Alzheimer’s Research wrote to the Department of Health and requested that the UK’s evaluation process of the same drug be accelerated so it can be administered for UK based patients.