Men and Dementia: Understand Together
Over 18,000 Irish men are living with dementia
While two-thirds of Irish people with dementia are women, over 18,000 Irish men are currently living with dementia. Some of this disparity can be explained by the simple fact that women live longer than men, and dementia becomes more common as we age. However, recent studies suggest that dementia can manifest differently in men than in women, particularly in its effect on memory.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a set of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, the term encompasses at least 400 distinct conditions. Dementia often develops slowly, over the course of serveral years. One of the earliest signs is usually having trouble remembering recent events.
Although, dementia usually affects people as they get older, it is by no means a “normal” or inevitable part of ageing. In fact, nine out of ten older people don’t develop dementia. A lot of people mature into their 80s and 90s without any major memory decline.
While, at its earliest stages, dementia can be confused with regular, age-related forgetfulness, its effects on memory are more pronounced. It can progress from struggling with everyday tasks to having difficulty dressing, bathing, walking or recognising family members and other familiar faces. However, it’s important to stress that every case of dementia is different, and no two men will experience exactly the same symptoms.
Although dementia is more common in people over 65, younger people can also develop dementia. This is known as early or younger onset dementia. Most of those affected by early onset dementia are in their 40s or 50s; family history and genetics may play a role in this.
So how can Irish men reduce their risk?
A growing body of evidence suggests that a healthy, active lifestyle can help maintain good brain health. Simply following good lifestyle habits can reduce your risk of dementia; regular exercise, eating healthily, controlling high blood pressure, cutting down on alchol and cutting out cigarettes can all make a difference.
Men’s Sheds and Dementia: Understand Together
As part of its Sheds for Life initiative, the Irish Men’s Sheds Association has partnered with the HSE’s Dementia: Understand Together campaign to dispel some of the myths around both Alzheimer’s disease and the broader issue of dementia. It’s an issue that touches many shedders, whether through direct personal experience or the experiences of loved ones.
As every shedder knows, an active mind is a huge asset when it comes to maintaining our wellbeing, particularly as we age. Keeping active and alert by meeting new people and trying new things can also potentially lower your risk of dementia.
Dementia: Understand Together is a public support, awareness and information campaign, led by the HSE, working with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, that aims to inspire people from all sections of society to stand together with the 500,000 Irish people whose families have been affected by dementia.
For more information on dementia, and the services and supports available, Freephone 1800 341 341 or visit www.understandtogether.ie. And remember, the Irish Men’s Sheds Association’s website Malehealth.ie can also help you find out more about dementia and related conditions. Simply visit www.malehealth.ie and navigate to the Head section.