June 24, 2024


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Would you use a smartphone or watch to detect dementia?

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A special message from MSN UK: 21 September is World Alzheimer’s Day and we’ve partnered with Alzheimer’s Research UK to support them in their mission for a world where people are free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. Find out how you can support them here, or by donating here.

Exclusive statistics from Alzheimer’s Research UK have revealed that three-quarters (75%) of UK adults are willing to use smart phone apps and wearable technology to better understand their own brain health and future risk of developing dementia.

The recent survey, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s long-term supporter, The Perfume Shop and conducted by Ipsos MORI, also found 77% would be willing to use wearable technology to monitor their day-to-day life if they were concerned that they might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

Dementia is a huge healthcare challenge, with nearly 1 million people living in the UK, but no available treatments in the UK to slow, stop, or prevent it. While smartphones and wearable devices are not currently used to detect the diseases that cause dementia, like Alzheimer’s, there is growing evidence that they could hold the key to detecting and monitoring these diseases in the future.

Smartphone apps and wearables can pick up subtle changes in someone’s behaviour and the way the body works. When combined, that digital data could provide information about the health of the brain as well as the early signs of disease. These advances in technology could open the door for the public, and healthcare professionals, to take a more proactive role in managing brain health and disease in the years ahead.

Young carer walking with the elderly woman in the park

Young carer walking with the elderly woman in the park

Alzheimer’s Research UK is spearheading an ambitious project, Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases (EDoN), which aims to combine digital data from smartphones and wearables to detect diseases like Alzheimer’s 10-15 years before symptoms take hold.

Stuart Lambie, 62, from Shrewsbury, uses a smartwatch to keep track of his long-distance running training. Having witnessed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on his father, Ian, who died in April last year, Stuart is keen to see the technology used to improve dementia diagnosis and help people maintain their brain health.

He said: “I use a smartwatch to track my day-to-day health and to track my running, so I think it is a great idea to use this kind of technology to detect or monitor the progression of dementia. Alzheimer’s stole my dad. He gradually disappeared and became an unrecognisable shell of who he once was. Anything that can help us understand more about dementia and help prevent it would be a huge benefit, helping to ensure people don’t have to go through the same devastating experience as my family.”

Dr Laura Phipps, Director of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s EDoN initiative, said: “In the very early stages of these diseases, people experience subtle changes in aspects of their day-to-day life such the way they sleep, talk, move their eyes, navigate, use their phones and even the way they walk. These changes might not be noticeable to the human eye, but digital technology could be sensitive enough to detect them.

“More and more of us are using wearables to monitor our activity levels and simple health measures, but we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. By harnessing the power of data science and combining multiple different measures together from a range of devices, we could unlock a simple and cost-effective approach to revolutionise how we pick up diseases that cause dementia.

“It’s great that the public is open to these new approaches to pick up early signs of disease. Picking up diseases like Alzheimer’s early will give us the best chance of stopping them before the symptoms of dementia start to get in the way of life, keeping people connected to their worlds, their families and themselves for longer.”

The survey findings give an exclusive glimpse into public attitudes to dementia, ahead of the full launch of Wave 2 of the charity’s Dementia Attitudes Monitor on World Alzheimer’s Day, 21 September 2021. The Monitor is the most comprehensive regular survey of the public perceptions into dementia and research, reflecting the views of 2,259 UK adults between 18 June and 19 July 2021.

September marks World Alzheimer’s Month. To help raise groundbreaking funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK, Microsoft’s Give with Bing rewards scheme allows users to raise funds simply through Bing searches

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