Brain health: a new way to think about dementia risk reduction (2021)

Brain health: a new way to think about dementia risk reduction (2021)

Through a joint insight project between Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Royal Society for Public Health, the potential of brain health to reframe dementia risk reduction was investigated. Despite years of engagement, there is still limited understanding of the potential to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Yet, the case for risk reduction has never been stronger: we know now that up to 40% of global dementia cases could potentially be prevented or delayed. So, Alzheimer’s Research UK want to transform the way people think about dementia risk reduction, by introducing the term ‘brain health’ as a new way of talking about it. Brain health is a term that is growing in use internationally, but to date has had limited use in the UK. Could it offer a new way to discuss dementia prevention?

Through expert interviews, UK-wide polling and a series of focus groups, the following themes emerged.

  • Brain health is a more empowering concept for the public than dementia risk reduction. From polling, 69% believe they can influence their brain health, whereas only 34% believe they can reduce their risk of developing dementia.
  • Brain health resonates with people of all ages, unlike dementia, which is usually associated with late life. 
  • Brain health is a stronger driver of health-conscious behaviour than the concept of dementia risk reduction.
  • Messages around brain health will need to be shared across a range of platforms and from a range of sources to maximize impact, as engagement preferences are multifaceted.

The findings make the case that the narrative can change. The conversation about brain health starts now. The time is right to work with the government to ensure there is development of a brain health strategy to enable everyone to maintain good brain health. This should include:

  • a funded commitment to implement cost-effective interventions to address risk factors
  • development of a targeted public awareness-raising campaign
  • maximizing all opportunities to embed brain health within existing services
  • funding more research to find ways to reduce the prevalence of dementia
  • embedding brain health across the life course, for example by working with employers or schools to raise awareness and understanding.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to:

  • engaging the public through our Think Brain Health public awareness campaign
  • engaging stakeholders to build a shared understanding of the brain health concept through a joint consensus
  • engaging government and policy-makers to embed brain health within wider health-related decision-making through a national brain health strategy.

To access the full ‘Brain health: a new way to think about dementia risk reduction’ report, click here.