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North east MP says "life changing" dementia research can replicate vaccine breakthroughs

By Kirsty Brown

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A north east MP has said the "immense effort" made by the scientific community against Covid-19 can soon be turned towards one of society's greatest killers - dementia.

MP Andrew Bowie spoke during a general debate on Dementia Action Week at the House of Commons on Thursday, in which MPs gave their accounts of an illness that overtook heart disease and stroke as the UK’s biggest cause of death in 2015.

In the NHS Grampian board area, 4,292 people were diagnosed with dementia in 2019, although Alzheimer's Research UK estimates diagnoses are only made in around one-third of cases.

And data from the Office for National Statistics show dementia was the most common main pre-existing condition in deaths involving Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Mr Bowie spoke of his childhood experiences of "praying" for the recovery of grandmothers who went from "animated, proud, fun women" to "shadows of their former self".

The Conservative MP also spoke of his great hope that the scientific community can replicate the success of creating vaccines in boosting early detection and treatment of dementia.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie.
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie.

He said: "This year has been a year of great loss.

"We have witnessed the loss of loved ones, loss of livelihoods and the loss of our usual freedoms and day-to-day routines.

"But what we have also seen is an immense effort on the part of our scientists and researchers to produce a vaccine, which is now allowing us to think about returning to life that resembles normality.

"There's a great lesson to be learned here and it's one that for the most part we all know to be true - that is when we focus our attention and come together with a common purpose, we can achieve great things.

"Both of my grandmothers suffered from dementia. And as time went on both went from being animated, proud, fun women very active in the lives of their families and wider communities to shadows of their former self.

"It not only, as people here know, affects their memory but their ability to do even the most basic things and eventually both were left unable to speak.

"And I vividly remember as a little boy lying in my bed praying that God would return my grandmother that I knew when I was much younger, that she would once again be able to recognise me.

"My family's experience is not unusual, rather, it's a story replicated hundreds of thousands of times across this country and indeed others.

"We must make advantage of improvements in imaging, artificial intelligence and genetics and look to transform early detection so that treatment has at least a chance of being effective.

"For all its sadness and turmoil, this year has proved that it is within our power, with the help of research and science to deliver life changing results.

"Let us therefore take heart from the vaccine success and seek to replicate this as we go forward in meeting the challenge posed by the devastating and ever more prevalent disease that is dementia."

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