Health Secretary announces new plans to assess people’s dementia risks from the age of 40 on, and offer advice about lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of the condition

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GPs will be asked to discuss the risks of dementia with patients as young as 40

GPs will be asked to discuss the risks of dementia with patients as young as 40  Photo: Alamy

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Family doctors will start assessing patients’ dementia risks from the age of 40 onwards, in a radical attempt to reduce rates of the disease

The Health Secretary announced the plans as he promised major strides in the care and treatment of those with the condition in an attempt to reduce the “fear and heartache” of a diagnosis.

Jeremy Hunt said the NHS needed to do far more to help people reduce the risk of dementia, by making lifestyle changes early.

Under the pilot scheme – which will be rolled out nationally if successful – GPs will be asked to include a discussion about reducing the risks of dementia in the NHS healthcheck, which is offered to patients between the age of 40 and 74.

Family doctors would be expected to discuss patients’ current lifestyles, and the steps they could introduce to reduce the chance of the condition.

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Studies suggest that exercise is the most significant single protection against dementia, while maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure control also offers significant benefits.

Extra NHS cash is contingent on trusts promising changes in the way services are delivered Jeremy Hunt called for more effort to be put into dementia prevention  Photo: Christopher Pledger/The Telegraph

Mr Hunt said: “We need to have a much bigger focus on prevention. One of the things that is key is the extent to which you can ward off dementia with a healthy lifestyle, early on.”

Research has found that one third of all Alzheimer’s disease cases can be linked to lifestyle factors –such as exercise, obesity, smoking and alcohol.

In July a study published in the Lancet Neurology found those who did not achieve three 20-minute bursts of vigorous exercise per week, such as jogging or football, or five 30-minute sessions of moderate activity, such as walking were 82 per cent more likely to go on to develop dementia.

Obesity in mid-life increased the risks of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease by 60 per cent, while high blood pressure raised the threat by 61 per cent, the analysis found.

Mr Hunt said hospitals needed to improve care of those with dementia, especially for patients admitted to hospital at weekends.

Under the plans, every patient should be reviewed by a senior doctor within 14 hours of admission, while all patients in high dependency care should be seen and reviewed twice a day every day of the week by 2020.

Quarter of hospital patients suffer from dementia, and patients with the condition on average stay in hospital for 25 per cent longer than other patients.

Mr Hunt said: “A dementia diagnosis can bring fear and heartache, but I want Britain to be the best place in the world to live well with dementia.

“Last Parliament we made massive strides on diagnosis rates and research – the global race is now on to find a cure for dementia and I want the UK to win it.

“This Parliament I want us to make big progress on the quality of care and treatment. Hospitals can be frightening and confusing places for people with dementia, so our new plan will guarantee them safer seven day hospital care,” he said.

Patients must come first Health Secretary says, on eve of crippling strikes

The needs of patients are being forgotten in the “hurley burley” of junior doctors’ strikes, the Health Secretary has said, as the NHS prepares for more industrial action this week.

Jeremy Hunt said vulnerable patients needed to be able to receive expert care whenever they fell ill, as he pledged to push on with an expansion in seven day NHS services.

This week up to 40,000 junior doctors are expected to take part in a third wave of strikes, after their leader said it was time to force the Government to “put their money where their mouth is”.