This week is Dementia Action Week, when Australians are encouraged to find out more about dementia so people living with the condition can feel less isolated and alone.
To help raise awareness of dementia, Rural Doctors Foundation interviewed experienced rural practitioner and health educator, Professor Tarun Sen Gupta, who is Treasurer of the Foundation.
Professor Sen Gupta shared valuable insights on brain health, key signs of dementia and what to do if you think you or a loved one has dementia.
What should people do to keep their brain healthy?
Professor Sen Gupta said lifestyle was key to brain health. “Your brain is your most important asset, so please look after it. While this is relevant at any age it is particularly important once you reach middle age,” he said.
“Make the right lifestyle choices by keeping your mind, heart and body healthy. Exercise your brain through mental stimulation and learning new things and participate in social activity.
“There are many connections between heart health and brain health so look after your heart. Making sure you maintain physical fitness, eat well, adopt healthy sleeping practices. Protecting your hearing and your head are also important, and your GP can help with these.”
What are the key signs of dementia?
According to Professor Sen Gupta, symptoms of dementia can significantly impact a person’s social and work life.
“Dementia is a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. It affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks, enough to interfere with a person’s normal social or working life,” he said.
“These changes could include trouble remembering the day and date or remembering recent events. There may be problems handling financial matters or difficulty following and joining conversations, particularly in groups.
“Dementia is not a normal part of ageing and is more than just forgetting names and appointments or losing things.”
Why is dementia awareness important?
Professor Sen Gupta said early diagnosis of dementia was beneficial to accessing support.
“Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and becoming more common as the population ages,” he said.
“There are several conditions that can produce similar symptoms, so it is important to establish a diagnosis. If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and possibly medication.”
What should people do if they think they, or a loved one, are showing signs of dementia?
Professor. Sen Gupta encouraged those with concerns about the brain health of a loved one, or themselves, to seek help.
“If you’re worried about your own brain health or that of a loved one there are many resources,” he said.
“Talking with your GP is a good start, and Dementia Australia has plenty of information including some helpful booklets, via www.dementia.org.au or by calling the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500.”