I was eating my breakfast bowl of porridge the other morning while vaguely listening to a news bulletin when I heard something which made me put my spoon down and take notice. 

It was a report on new research which claimed that 40 per cent of cases of Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia, are preventable. 

Yes, 40pc.

That is so huge it took me a while to get my head around it. 

And when I looked into more details, I discovered another fact I hadn’t quite realised, which is that dementia is the leading cause of death in our country.  

Currently, there are some 900,000 people in the UK suffering from dementia. And this year around another 209,600 will be diagnosed. 

But if 40pc of those adults did not, after all, get dementia, it would mean that 83,840 individuals could enjoy much fuller lives for longer. 

More than that, the health service would save billions of pounds, and masses of partners and families would be spared the torment of seeing their loved ones disappear into the horror of dementia with all the misery that entails. 

Does this make you want to know how you could be one of those 40pc who actually need not succumb to dementia?

It does me. 

As you’re reading this, it might occur to you that you’re of an age where the damage must already be done and that it’s too late to do anything to avoid it.  

That’s an understandable view. And it’s true that people in their 30s and 40s can make more of an impact on their future well-being by changing their lifestyle, than those of us who’re older. But there are two particular areas in which men and women of all ages can lessen their chances of dementia by making different choices.  

The first is to have a hearing test. 

Many of us, I’m afraid, resist finding out for sure that our hearing is impaired. It’s a step in the ageing process we may not be ready to confront.  

But this research suggests a clear link between deafness and dementia. There are a number of factors here. 

One is that it takes a lot of brain power when we are having to battle to try to hear and understand what others are saying – brain power that could be better used on other cognitive activities. But the other sad truth is that hearing loss isolates us. 

When we have to keep asking someone to repeat what they have just said, we worry that they’re becoming irritated. And often they are. 

And when this goes on, it’s all too easy to give up trying to join in conversations and, after a while, we may even stop going out as much. 

Before long, we are missing out on many aspects of life we once took for granted. 

This is bad for us, because a good social network with ample opportunities for verbal communication, is important in keeping us viable, young at heart and mentally and physically healthy. So, for a number of reasons, booking a hearing test could alter our lives for the better, especially in preventing, or slowing down, the onset of dementia. 

The other way we can help ourselves is to limit our alcohol use. 

This week I had a long conversation with a London-based psycho-geriatrician. He told me that the incidence of a particular type of dementia is rising fast among adults who ignore government advice on alcohol consumption.

Apparently, it’s particularly rife in those who worked in the media and the book trade. Certainly, I wince at the thought of how many meetings I’ve sat through in the past, in both TV and publishing, which were fuelled by far too much alcohol.

This doctor told me that places like Hampstead, which is home to many media and publishing people, are dementia hotspots. But it’s important for us to realise that this is happening in the rest of the UK too, including East Anglia. 

The specialist explained that these are not people who get obnoxiously drunk or end up rolling in gutters. They’re just folk who like booze rather too much, have developed a high tolerance of it, and can easily drink a bottle of wine every day. As he put it, ‘they’re pickling their neurones’.  

When that happens, they develop something called ARBD or Alcohol-Related Brain Damage which leads to memory loss, and difficulty in processing thoughts and tackling everyday tasks. 

The only good news is that, unlike other forms of dementia, a change in lifestyle can reverse some of the deterioration. So, no matter how old you are, it’s worth reducing your alcohol intake.   

Other advice from Alzheimer’s Research UK is to cut out smoking and increase levels of exercise. They also suggest we challenge and exercise our brains. And to help us do that, they’ve developed a tool called the Think Brain Health Check In. 

This is designed to make us consider the changes we can make to avoid dementia. I’m sure this is a great idea.

 Here’s the link: www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/brain-health/check-in