25/09/2015 07:10 BST | Updated 24/09/2016 06:12 BST

Use Your Head

The headlines that accompanied the recent World Alzheimer's Day claimed that one in three babies born this year are likely to go on to develop dementia at some point in their lifetime. The statistics claimed that 27% of boys born in 2015 will develop dementia, alongside 37% of girls, which isn't exactly the news I wanted to hear as a mum-to-be with a first baby due this year.

Fortunately I'm pragmatic enough to see beyond the headlines which, where dementia is concerned, are often just a re-hash of previous scare stories. There are far too many variables in what lies ahead for babies born this year to make any sort of reliable judgement about who will, and who won't, go on to develop dementia.

Amongst these variables are developmental factors (genetics and education), lifestyle factors (diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise and social interaction), advances in science and medicine that could produce new tests and treatments that may, one day, make it easier to identify people at risk of dementia before they develop it and could, potentially, stop it developing altogether, and global factors (environment, pollution and living standards).

Since we still know so very little about the many different types of dementia there is a huge amount of scope for research and development, and for informing the public about reliable ways in which they can reduce their risk of developing a type of dementia, and indeed many other common illnesses, conditions and diseases.

If you are a parent of a child born this year, or due to be born this year, first and foremost my advice would be not to panic. We know some elements that can help keep the body generally healthy, like a diet rich in fruits and vegetables following the famous, or perhaps infamous, 5-a-day guidelines, plus regular exercise for the body and mind. Ensuring your child follows these good practices, alongside educational attainment and socialising, will all help in setting them up for a positive and proactive life.

Of course there are no guarantees where our health is concerned. Rates of dementia have increased from when I was a baby, but then again that isn't entirely unexpected as people live longer, dementia awareness grows and diagnosis is prioritized. However, there is a huge amount of conjecture about what future prevalence rates will be. From my perspective, the only really useful outcome from headlines proclaiming that one in three babies born this year will go on to develop dementia is that it may motivate the public to think more about their lifestyle choices, and focus on how the choices made in early life could affect later life.

I also hope it may encourage more people to back some of the fantastic research that is being done around dementia. As an ambassador for BRACE, I'd love as many people as possible to support their 'DEFEAT DEMENTIA - #useyourhead' campaign which, as well as being innovative (I love the headbands!), also has a really important message behind it.


For every £10 that is spent on dementia health and social care in the UK, just 8 pence is spent on research. As a research charity, BRACE are campaigning to raise funds to help medical science understand the causes of dementia, find ways of diagnosing the different types of dementia more accurately and develop more effective treatments.

BRACE's world class scientists in the South West of England use their heads as they work in laboratories trying to unravel the secrets behind the different types of dementia and find ways of combatting them, and so by sporting a campaign headband or donating to BRACE you can use your head to support them. The campaign has been positively received on social media, and crucially, has the ability to appeal to people of all ages and in all circumstances.

With improved research will hopefully come more informed headlines that give the public accurate advice, rather than panicking this year's new parents into thinking their baby will one day go through the experience that my dad, and many millions of others, had and many people are currently having as they live with dementia.