I’ve been thinking lately that no one is immune to dementia. In the past few weeks we lost two major political figures to the condition. Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia only 2 years earlier. Britain’s Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, died of a stroke last week following a lengthy struggle with vascular dementia.
Both were extremely divisive figures. When news of Thatcher’s passing hit the internet, she was simultaneously lauded as England’s savior, as well as a few… less savoury names. Still, she was the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century, and the only female one.
When Klein took office in 1992, Alberta faced a $23-billion deficit. Shockingly, he balanced the budget within 3 years. He brought personality to Alberta’s politics, and was admired for his candour, even when he was perhaps a little too honest.
But regardless of whether you agree with their particular brand of politics, we cannot deny that even an Iron Lady was not immune to dementia. And we couldn’t have expected that Klein, never known to back down from a verbal tussle, would find himself unable to speak.
What we can take away is that their deaths have shined another light on diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, as well as vascular dementia. The more that we talk openly about dementia (and our experiences with it), the more we can reduce the fear and stigma.
And none of us can ever say with certainty, “I’ll never have dementia,”. So it’s important to understand what it is, and the risk factors that are involved. Eating well, regular exercise and keeping stress levels down are just a few ways to lead a brain healthy lifestyle, which is your best chance at reducing risk.