Former GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips has spoken out over her fear of getting Alzheimer’s disease after losing both her father Neville and mother Amy, from the illness.
Admitting that genetically, the odds are stacked against her, 51-year-old Fiona says she feels like “someone with a terminal disease” as her mother began showing symptoms of dementia in her late 50s and died from the disease aged 74.
"I have that feeling now all the time that I am bound to get it,” Fiona told the Mirror. “I worry. I keep thinking that I might only have five years left.”
In a bid to prevent herself from the onset of dementia, Fiona admits to following a healthier lifestyle and regularly takes gingko biloba, a herbal remedy believed to help people with Alzheimer’s and memory difficulties.
Fiona even took a genetic test a few years back to see if she was at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. She is yet to open the results.
“Until they find a cure, I can’t see what the point would be. There would be nothing I could do to stop it. And by the time you know it’s happening, it is too late,” Fiona told the Mirror.
“I think early onset of dementia is like breast cancer, you are more predisposed to getting it if a parent has had it.”
Sadly, Fiona lost her father Neville from Alzheimer’s earlier this month and strongly believes that the anti-psychotic drugs used to treat his illness were to blame for his death.
Only last week, experts slammed ‘chemical cosh’ sedative drugs commonly used to treat dementia urging for new guidelines on long-term use of the treatment.
Fiona agrees. “I am so angry at the way my lovely, lovely dad was treated at the end,” she told the Mirror. “In his final weeks, he was so coshed by drugs that his poor body couldn’t cope.”
“They robbed him of his laughter, then his smile, which was all he had left and I am absolutely furious about that. Then they robbed him of his life. Without the powerful drugs they used to sedate him, he could have had another few years.”
Andrew Chidgey, from the Alzheimer's Society, told The Huffington Post: "If both parents have had dementia, people are bound to worry about developing the condition too. Whilst there are a number of genes that have been linked to Alzheimer's disease, it is important to remember that most of these genes only increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by a small amount.
"There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing dementia. Regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a Mediterranean diet, high in antioxidants and oily fish, can help. We urge anyone who is concerned about their memory to visit their GP."
“With 820,000 people affected by dementia in the UK, and a rapidly ageing population, we urgently need to find ways to prevent and treat the condition – that means we must invest in research,” a spokesperson from Alzheimer’s Research UK told The Huffington Post.
A study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that decaffeinated coffee improves the brain's energy metabolism - linked to cognitive decline - in those with Type 2 diabetes. "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, ageing, and/ or neurodegenerative disorders," said lead researcher, Dr Giulio Maria Pasinett.
Everyday games, puzzles and tasks were able to postpone decline in cognitive function and the ability to carry out everyday tasks, in dementia patients, for at least a year, according to research from the University of Erlangen in Germany, published in the journals BMC Medicine.
Eating fewer calories could help boost memory and cognitive function, according to a study at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Researchers hope to mimic the same effect with a drug in the future, bringing hope to Alzheimer's sufferers as well as those suffering from injury-related memory loss.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and School of Medicine found that people who ate baked or grilled fish regularly reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's. Reseracher Cyrus Raji said: "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled (grilled) fish at least one time per week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."
Working out using virtual games such as the Wii Fit could slow cognitive decline in the over 50s, researchers from Union College in the US found. Participants aged between 58 and 99 were given a 3D exercise game to play. Compared to the control group who were asked to use a regular exercise bike, the 'cybercycle' group had a 23% decrease in advancement of mild cognitive impairment and showed improved 'executive function'.
A study in The Lancet Neurology suggest that 3m cases of Alzheimer's across the world could be prevented in seven simple ways. The report recommends quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, controlling your blood pressure and diabetes risk factors as well as managing depression and obesity to help combat the disease.