The evidence for all this is relatively new, he said. “We overemphasize the effects of normal aging on the brain,” he said, adding that when he was a medical student, “we were told that from the age of 20, brain cells die”. The reality is that “while short-term memory slips, which is a ‘filing’ problem, not dementia, you’re actually better at making complex decisions”. He pointed to the late queen. “It seems her brain is as good as it was before she died. Obviously you need a little luck, but people need to understand what happens to us as we live longer. It’s not due to the aging process. It’s due to the health of the body and mind Loss.” Age only really became a contributing factor to cognitive decline in the “late ’90s,” he said.
If we get it right, he explains in his Glasgow accent, which has only softened slightly in England over decades, it would mark a dramatic shift in his medical focus as a young man. “Fifty years ago, everyone was thinking about children, not the elderly. But I was interested in them and thought the importance of activity was overlooked.” He calls exercise a “magic bullet” for both emotion and cognition benefit. “Walking fast is the key. Learning how to do things for yourself. Lifting weights and treadmills.”
He certainly seemed active himself, publishing books and campaigning into old age. And he remains influential – he was summoned to Downing Street earlier this year to see how his dementia plan fits into the wider government’s 10-year strategy.
It was a leap from growing up in smoke and poverty in his native Glasgow, where his father contracted hepatitis during the war and died when Moore was seven. “We never had a car, and everyone had CLABs — coughing like a jerk,” he recalled those days. But he was well educated and, because his mother’s family was a farmer, initially trained as a veterinarian. He then turned to medicine and developed an interest in public health in his 20s. His life changed in the mid-1980s when a woman died of cervical cancer under his supervision. “I thought, ‘This is a complete mess, it needs a system’. So I decided to create a national cervical screening program.” From there, he created a breast cancer screening program, and it went on like that.
Such programs become bureaucratic means of securing value through prevention. “I still think healthcare is a mess,” he said. “But it also can’t be seen as an infinite resource. You can’t just assume there’s always another X-ray.” As he got older, he realized that demographics would pose a fundamental challenge to resource allocation. “I can see population ageing as a wave of demand. We have to have a system that allows us to live longer and better.”
The Dementia Risk Reduction Program (with tips in 6 podcasts per month) is his contribution to this goal. In his opinion, the bonus is huge. “Dementia is one of the big problems, but the good news is that we might be able to reduce it by about 40 percent.”
Seven Ways to Lower Your Risk of Dementia
1. Keep in touch
Spending time with friends and family is associated with improved mental performance.
2. Keep going
Taking 10,000 steps a day can reduce your risk of dementia and other health problems. But experts also found that faster pace, such as power walking, showed benefits beyond the number of steps recorded.
3. Eat the Mediterranean Diet
Research from the University of Edinburgh suggests a Mediterranean diet may help prevent brain shrinkage. So eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes and grains like wheat and rice, moderate amounts of fish, dairy and wine, and small amounts of red meat.
4. Quit smoking
The Alzheimer’s Association says smoking increases your risk of dementia by 30 to 50 percent.
5. Cut back on alcohol
From your 50s, Sir Muir recommends abstaining from alcohol one day a week, with one more day every ten years.
6. Find a sense of purpose
Going to church and volunteering can help reverse memory problems in people with early-stage dementia, research shows.
7. Take a hearing test
Hearing loss is associated with reduced cognitive stimulation, which may increase your risk of dementia.