Ihope that the title of my article this week has got you interested: how healthy living can help fight dementia.

People often ask me why I am interested in mental health and why this is reflected in my Pilates system, PilatesEVO. This week is dementia awareness week, so I wanted to write what is a very personal and difficult blog for me to write, but one that I really want to share with you all.

Dementia is still a dirty word to many people and misunderstood by many others. It “remains one of the last bastions of stigma and fear when it comes to illness” as the UK health secretary very succinctly once put it. Mental health is such an important issue and I am glad to see that more and more people and organisations in positions of influence are trying to raise awareness.

My story is a typical one, nothing special when dealing with this terrible disease. My father started showing symptoms a few years ago; the usual forgetfulness and unusual behaviour. The disease soon progressed to the point where he didn’t recognise me. Remembering this time still makes me cry to this day several years on. If you want to understand what dementia can do, try imagining one of your parents looking at you like you are a stranger, and worse with mistrust and even fear in their eyes. I witnessed my father not only lose his mental capacity, but also his dignity. The night my father passed away, I had a horrible dream. I woke up with a sick feeling in my stomach to then find that I had slept through a call from the hospital telling me I should get to his bedside immediately as he wouldn’t make it through the night. I will regret missing that call for the rest of my life, but maybe it saved me the pain of seeing him pass away. I can instead remember saying good night to him the night before and kissing him on his forehead as he was in a peaceful, drug-induced sleep.

Labelled the 21st Century Plague, dementia is going to become part of more and more people’s lives. About 850,000 people in Britain currently suffer from it, and 5.5 million people in the US. These figures are predicted to double by 2050, with cases around the world projected to triple to 135 million by the same date. Currently, there is no cure with health services only able to try to help people live with their disease rather than cure it. This makes it all the more important to reduce the risks of developing it in the first place. Research is increasingly showing that five key components of healthy lifestyle can ward off a range of conditions including heart disease, diabetes and dementia. A recent 35 year study found more evidence to confirm this. So what are the five key components?

1) Regular exercise
2) Eating fruit and vegetables
3) Staying slim
4) Light drinking
5) Not smoking

So not rocket science then, and something that everyone can do and something we should consider in all our training programs and advice to our clients.

As Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society said “we have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head….. healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia”.

Whilst the world’s leading countries have finally woken up to this global issue (some cynics might say their attitude has been clarified by the threat of enormous costs associated with treating sufferers), by taking five simple steps, we can all help to reduce the risk of my story becoming your story, or your children’s story. Trust me, however difficult you or your client’s might think those five steps are, the alternative could be ultimately worse.

As always, if you have any comments then please feel free to contact me at chris@pilatesevo.com.

You can read more about dementia awareness week by clicking on https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20167/dementia_awareness_week.