The news that presenter Alastair Stewart is living with dementia at age 71 has been covered extensively in the UK media, including the symptoms that promoted him to seek help – that “something up there” wasn’t right and the feeling of being “a bit discombobulated”.
As he explained: “I wasn’t becoming forgetful, but things like doing up your shoelaces properly, making sure the tie was straight, and remembering the call time for your programme.
“I then decided at my age that I might have something wrong up here. I told my doctor I was worried I might have early onset dementia.”
After a series of strokes, Alastair has revealed he has vascular dementia. To manage his condition, he has stopped smoking, is taking long walks with his dogs, and completes word puzzles to improve his physical and mental health.
Alzheimer’s Research UK executive director Samantha Benham-Hermetz said: “Our thoughts are with Alastair Stewart and his family, following the news he has vascular dementia. We applaud Alastair’s brave decision to share his diagnosis publicly and raise awareness, while also urging others to seek help if they have their own concerns about dementia.
“By speaking so openly and honestly about his experience, we hope this will put a further spotlight on the desperate need to find new treatments for all forms of dementia.”
September marks World Alzheimer’s Month, and this year’s campaign theme is ‘Never too early, never too late’. As well as highlighting the importance of identifying risk factors, it also focuses on making lifestyle changes to delay, and potentially even prevent, the onset of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease and diet
Interestingly, recent studies have focused on the link between Alzheimer’s disease and nutrition.
In a new study, a team from the University of California was able to reconfigure the circadian clocks of animals in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s, through intermittent fasting. Current treatments don’t target this aspect of the disease, but there might be other avenues of managing the condition.
Further studies published recently have looked at the link between inflammatory diets and dementia risk and the effect of lifestyle changes, including diet and physical activity, on micro-ribonucleic acid (miRNA) expression in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
A healthy lifestyle has been associated with up to a 60% reduced risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, with modifiable risk factors, including obesity in middle age and a sedentary lifestyle.
Likewise, specific diets such as the Mediterranean diet appear to protect cognitive function and support healthy ageing.