Running for Healthy Brain Ageing

18 Sep 2013

CHeBA Blog: Professor Henry Brodaty Running for Healthy Brain Ageing


This article was originally published in the August edition of Montefiore LIFE Magazine.

When I first started working as a doctor in 1970, Alzheimer's disease was thought of as a rare disease only affecting people under the age of 65 years.  No-one was much interested in older people with brain disease or mental illness and they were all lumped together under a diagnosis of senile psychosis or senile dementia.  Hasn't the world changed!  No-one had heard of Alzheimer's disease 40 years ago.  Now it is a household word and what people fear most (along with cancer). 

In 1990 I was the first professor of psychogeriatrics to be appointed in Australia.  Many years later, and now with a Dementia Collaborative Research Centre and a Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing established at UNSW we are tackling brain health as a priority for the 21st century. 

I've seen all manner of memory loss in my patients and the heavy impact that cognitive impairment has on family members.  I've also seen incredible technological advances that have allowed us to delve far deeper into the intracacies of brain ageing.  I remain a staunch believer that we can alter the dire predictions of age-related brain disorders and prevent millions of cases of Alzheimer's disease in this country and worldwide.  I believe we can do much to treat the dementias and relieve the effects on those affected and ease the burden on families.

With the possibility of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias affecting almost a million Australians by 2050 (as well as impacting on two million family members), an increased investment in research is the only hope we have for the development of medical interventions to delay, stop or reverse the diseases that lead to dementia.  In the short-term we may be able to reduce our risk of dementia by better protecting the brain through lifestyle changes that we know may help, which includes looking after your body, brain and heart.

The goal in my lifetime as a clinican and researcher is to help change the future of age-related brain disorders, largely through our work at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing and the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre - Assessment and Better Care.  Ultimately our goal is for people to achieve their full life span and enjoy a good quality of life unaffected by loss of cognitive ability. 

Advances in prevention and treatment and implementing new knowledge depends largely on research, and dementia research continues to be grossly and disproportionately underfunded when its prevalence, disability burden and cost are taken into account. 

As such, I joined the newly established CHeBA Champions - the Fitness Ambassadors for the Centre - in their fundraising endeavours for our Centre's research in this year's City 2 Surf.  These individuals are championing the idea of healthy brain ageing through their own lifestyle choices and creating awareness amongst their own peers about the risk factors for Alzheimer's and other dementias.

I managed to complete the City 2 Surf in 95 minutes and raised $1,840 for the Centre's research.  In total, the CHeBA Champions, Professor Perminder Sachdev, our official Ambassador, PJ Lane, members of CHeBA staff and I managed to get generous sponsorships in the order of $29,000 to help change the future of ageing in this country.