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Older people worrying
themselves to death

Pictured: Dr Muir Gray

  • British people being misled by over emphasis on Alzheimer’s
  • Leading British doctor says a negative outlook on life can hasten decline in health
  • There are 11 million over 65s in the UK but under 1 million suffering from any form of dementia

An over emphasis on Alzheimer’s is causing unnecessary concern among thousands of older people in Britain.

Leading British doctor and recognised expert on ageing Sir Muir Gray says too many older people are over concerned about developing Alzheimer’s disease when they may well just be experiencing short term memory loss.

He says because they fear Alzheimer’s disease and understand it is not preventable, they fail to take any action. Yet other types of dementia such as vascular dementia caused by problems of the heart or arteries can sometimes be delayed or even prevented if the patients seek help soon enough.

“Alzheimer’s is constantly in the news and being talked about,” said Sir Muir Gray, who was knighted for creating the National Library for Health and is now Director of the NHS’s National Knowledge Service and  Chief Medical Advisor at Britain’s over 65’s information site Spring Chicken.

“Of course having Alzheimer’s is a very sad way to end one’s life,” he said.  “But it is now clear that some types of dementia can be prevented. New guidelines from NICE, our National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, emphasise that getting more physically active in midlife, together with eating better and stopping smoking,  can prevent or delay the onset of dementia, disability and frailty.”

Dr Muir says that as ageing proceeds, there is also a likelihood of a decline in certain intellectual abilities that are not associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“ Remembering recently acquired information such as the names of people is not a sign of Alzheimer’s and I have concern that every time a person forgets a name or an item on their shopping list, people are fearing they are starting to develop this problem.”

Sir Muir Gray says that it must be remembered that from the 11 million plus of people aged 65 or more in the UK, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are about a million people with dementia but there are also a million people over 65 who are still in employment.
“While dementia is a sad problem that needs addressing, it is clear that there are also millions of older people in Britain who should not be resigned to mental decline. Overall we are all keeping fitter longer, and today many of us need not feel old until we reach our 90s,” he said.

British doctor Sir Muir Gray, CBEFRCPSGlasFCLIP  has held senior positions in screeningpublic health and information management.
He was director of Research and Development for Anglia and Oxford Regional Health Authority and director at the UK National Screening Committee, during which he helped pioneer Britain's breast and cervical cancer screening programmes, and National Library for Health, and director of Clinical Knowledge Process and Safety for the NHS National Programme for IT.
He was knighted in 2005 for the development of the foetal, maternal and child screening programme and the creation of the National Library for Health.
He is now the director of the National Knowledge Service and Chief Knowledge Officer to the National Health Service, a Director of the healthcare rating and review service iWantGreatCare and is Public Health Director of the Campaign for Greener Healthcare. He is also one of the original authors of the IDEAL framework for surgical innovation.

In recent years he has also specialised in ageing, especially in lifestyle areas. He is senior advisor to Spring Chicken, set up to provide the very best products and information possible to help older lifestyles in Britain, and Bloomsbury has recently published his books Sod 60!, Sod 70! and Sod it! Eat well, all aimed at improving life for Britain’s senior population.

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