TV presenter Angela Rippon delved into the world of dementia last night, looking at the latest research and ways to avoid it.

The ever-youthful Angela Rippon, who is making a name for herself as the face of TV shows about ageing, presented an eye-opening programme about dementia last night. The very thought-provoking Truth About Dementia aired on BBC1.

She started by explaining her own personal interest – her mother developed it in her 80s – and the different challenges she faced. She also went to visit an old friend who is living with dementia, and spoke to his wife about how she copes. There were some incredibly moving scenes as 80-year-old Ida became upset and tearful at how hard it was to care for her husband, Bob, and Angela tried to comfort her.

Angela with her mother, who had dementia
Angela with her mother, who had dementia

Angela went on to meet the inspiring Dr Jennifer Bute. As well as running a series of activity workshops for people with dementia, Dr Bute has Alzheimer’s herself. She relies on a range of coping techniques to help her continue to live independently, including using QR code notes around her house which she can scan with a mobile or iPad and which then play videos to remind her of how to carry out daily activities such as making a cup of tea or make a sandwich.

Next she met with scientists who carry out cognitive tests to check for memory loss. Despite passing with flying colours when she did the tests, Angela still decided that she wanted to get a genetic test to see if she carried the gene for dementia.

One fascinating scene was when Angela met with a scientist to look at two brain samples – one from someone who was healthy when they died, and one who died with dementia. The difference was staggering – the brain was smaller with a shrunken hippocampus, a clear indicator that they would have had memory problems.

Angela compares the brain size of someone with dementia and someone without
Angela compares the brain size of someone with dementia and someone without

She also looked into what you could do to help keep your brain healthy; learning Chinese (or any language), and what might increase your risk; not getting enough sleep. This was something she was concerned about, having survived on six hours sleep a night for many years.

Some of the most moving scenes were with people who are at risk of developing early-onset Alzheimer’s, and how they are taking part in research trials now to try and help find a cure in the future. You couldn’t help but be filled with admiration for people like Sophie Leggett, whose mother died from dementia. She's now taking part in research to see if treatments can help delay the onset of the disease. The extraordinary level of courage she showed in facing the prospect of dementia was extremely moving.

Angela meets Sophie Leggett who is taking part in dementia research
Angela meets Sophie Leggett who is taking part in dementia research

However, the end message was clear. There are things you can do to help reduce your risk of dementia, you can take responsibility for what might happen in the future and you can spread the message about dementia and reduce the stigma of it. Angela is certainly doing a great job of this herself.

To watch the episode, click here (available until 18 June).