Smokers at high risk of dementia, study says

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Heavy-smoking Wiganers are at increased risk of developing dementia, health chiefs warned today.

They say many residents are unaware smoking increases the chances of developing of vascular dementia and have pledged to push this message in the coming months - especially as more people smoke in the borough than the national average. The policy change has been unveiled in a new report detailing the borough’s improving mortality rates.

It highlights the number of under-75s dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer has fallen by 40 and 20 per cent, respectively, in the last decade. The borough’s public health boss says awareness campaigns will be launched raising awareness of the link between heart and head. Prof Kate Ardern said: “It’s a fact that as a borough our health is improving year on year, people are living longer lives and the health gap with other areas in England is reducing.

“We’re proud that our approach in Wigan is innovative and focuses on what people can do, empowering them to take control of their livesand make positive decisions such as stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol and eating healthily.

“Not only do healthy hearts reduce cardiovascular conditions but can also decrease the chances of vascular dementia, the second most common type of dementia, which is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain.”

Public health officers say life expectancy for both men and women has increased by three and two years respectively in the last decade.

However, the borough’s rates remain below the national average. And despite smoking prevalence falling more than 23 per cent, lung cancer remains the most common cause of death.

The report also highlights how public health bosses are preparing for the borough’s over-85 population to double in the next 15 years due to the “baby boomer bulge that began in the mid-1940s”.

This will require a “rebalancing of priorities”, the report adds.

Prof Ardern added: “We’re working hard to tackle dementia and were named Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Community Town of the Year in 2016. Part of our ongoing work around dementia is to raise awareness of the link between your heart and your head.

“These improvements have been achieved through a wide range of support and innovative programmes such as NHS health checks, Lose Weight Feel Great and through our Heart of Wigan and Leigh initiatives encouraging people to look after their hearts.

“As part of The Deal for Health and Wellness we are confident that health in the borough will continue to improve and that people will be living longer and happier lives as a result.”