Dementia hitting women hardest

Women face a dementia 'triple whammy', Alzheimer's Research UK warns.
Women face a dementia 'triple whammy', Alzheimer's Research UK warns.
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Women are hit hardest by the dementia epidemic sweeping Britain, according to a new study.

The illness is not only the leading cause of death among British woman, but they are also far more likely to end up as carers of those with dementia, Alzheimer’s Research UK has found.

The charity warned women are suffering physical and emotional stress and having to give up their jobs as a result.

Hilary Evans, director of external affairs at the charity, said: “Dementia has a devastating impact on all those whose lives it touches, but it’s a ‘triple whammy’ for women - more women are dying of dementia, more women are having to bear the burden of care and more women working in dementia research are leaving science.

“The experiences of these women underline the urgent need to tackle the diseases that cause this life-shattering condition.

“In recent decades we have seen increased investment in areas like cancer have a real impact, and we need to emulate that success for dementia.

“Only through research can we find ways to treat and prevent dementia, and transform the lives of the hundreds of thousands affected.”

The report, which will be published next month at the Women of the World Festival, highlights the huge toll of dementia on women in the UK.

It found that more than 500,000 women are now affected by dementia, whereas about 350,000 men have the condition.

Women over 60 are now twice as likely to get dementia as breast cancer.

And women are more than two-and-a-half times more likely than men to provide intensive, 24-hour care for people with the illness.

In separate research, published last month in the journal Epidemiology, scientists suggested that there could also be environmental reasons why some people were more likely to develop dementia.

Researchers found that dementia rates were higher among people living in northern parts of Scotland and Sweden.

Gill Barker

From reaching the summit of Mount Everest to cycling thousands of miles across America, there’s no end to the lengths people will go to for a cause close to their heart. Breaking boundaries and taking on gruelling endeavours can mean the person taking part enjoys the experience of a lifetime while the charity benefits from generous sponsorship. But taking time off work and organising an extreme, and often costly, adventure just isn’t possible for everyone. That’s why Gill Barker, from Wakefield, has created her own twist on the trend to find the toughest, most epic charity challenge. Gill is set to turn 35 in 2020 – and reaching this milestone has inspired her to have a good think about what she’d like to achieve, both physically and mentally, and write a bucket list to help reach those goals. Gill will complete 35 challenges before her 35th birthday on Saturday March 14. Some are small, some are huge, but all of them will push her beyond her comfort zone. “Turning 33 felt like a big thing for me,” explains Gill, who works in marketing at Leeds Trinity University. “I started to think about the life decisions I’d made. I looked back and while I’d had fun, I regretted all those weekends where I could have been having more fulfilling experiences and creating memories. “I have a full-time job so I couldn’t do a massive overseas challenge, but I realised I could break it down into little bits and still raise as much money as possible for charity.” Gill has already ticked 11 challenges off her list. She’s faced her fear of heights at the outdoor adventure centre Go Ape, trained with the Leeds Rhinos, cycled 128 miles from coast to coast and climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. Other challenges have involved changing her diet to ensure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs, and going to the gym more regularly on her own – something that would previously have caused Gill a considerable amount of anxiety. During the festive season, Gill kept active by completing a ‘12 days of Christmas’ workout challenge. Gill is now taking part in RED January, a campaign run in partnership with Mind that encourages participants to beat the winter blues by being active every day throughout the month. Then, later this month she’ll be taking to the slopes at Xscape Yorkshire to try her hand at skiing for the first time. Gill’s biggest test of her ‘35 before 35’ mission so far will be taking part in a 24-hour run in March. The run will be completed on a 3.71-mile loop so not only will it be physically demanding, it will also play on her mental toughness. She will also be finishing the year in style by taking part in the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii in December. There are three conditions that all of Gill’s challenges must meet – they must be physical or stretch her mentally, they all need to be self-funded and they can’t affect her job. Driving Gill’s ambition is a passion to help two local charities that have personal meaning to her – Yorkshire Cancer Research and Leeds Mind. She’s already raised more than £500 for the two causes. “Like many families across the UK, my own family has a history of cancer,” explains Gill. “But people close to me have recently been affected by cancer, too. They’ve all been so strong and inspirational. I wanted to do something that would support them. “I chose to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research after reading that people living here are more likely to get cancer, and more likely to die from it, than people living in other areas of the country. The statistics really shocked me.” Gill chose Leeds Mind following her own struggles with mental health. Her ‘35 before 35’ challenge has helped her overcome a period of depression. “It’s given me something to focus on,” Gill says. “Many people are affected by depression, even those who continue to work and function in everyday life. It’s very easy to fall into that slump and stop doing the things you used to enjoy. “I’m feeling much fitter and healthier, but I’m also happier and more confident now that I have a new focus. “If I can encourage one person who may be going through a difficult period to be brave and do something they’ve never done before, face a fear or take on a new challenge in order to gain a new focus, then that would be brilliant. If I can do it, anyone can.” You can find out more about Gill Barker’s challenges and sponsor her by visiting You can also follow her progress on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She is also looking for suggestions for challenges to complete the 35 as she is still a few short on her list. For further information on Yorkshire Cancer Research, visit

Two studies were carried out, one involving more than 37,000 Scottish people born in 1921 and the other among more than 26,000 Swedish twins.

Twins living in the north of Sweden turned out to be two to three times more likely to have the disease than those in the south, after accounting for factors such as age, gender and genes.

Likewise in Scotland, where people lived as an adult had a significant impact on the chances of developing dementia.

Exposure to vitamin D, which is made in the skin by the action of sunlight, has been shown to be linked to healthy brain function and dementia.

There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK costing the country £26 billion a year, the Alzheimer’s Society reports.

Two-thirds, £17.4bn, of the cost of dementia is paid by people with dementia and their families, either in unpaid care, estimated to be £11.6bn, or in paying for private social care.

This stands in contrast to other conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, where the NHS provides care that is free at the point of use.