Alastair Stewart has been praised for his “eloquence” when speaking about the symptoms of early onset vascular dementia.
The 71-year-old former ITV News presenter, who retired from regular broadcasting on GB News earlier this year after nearly five decades on air, revealed his condition on Sunday.
Alzheimer’s Research UK has spoken about vascular dementia prevention, risks, symptoms and the impact of stroke.
Stewart told GB News programme The Camilla Tominey Show that he felt “a bit discombobulated” about six or nine months ago when he had difficulties with the time and doing his shoelaces.
A scan revealed he had had a series of minor strokes and he was diagnosed with vascular dementia, which affects around 180,000 people in the UK and means damage has been caused to the blood cells.
Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, told the PA news agency: “We really welcome Alastair’s ability to talk about this, and obviously to talk eloquently about the impact it’s having on his family.”
She also praised former GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips revealing her Alzheimer’s diagnosis and Thor actor Chris Hemsworth saying he has two copies of the APOE4 gene, making him more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Ms Mitchell said: “I think, to articulate that this does affect everyone… we need people to talk about it… we don’t want there to be a stigma about it, we want people to be supportive, we need people to come forward.
“Some people don’t even come forward for diagnosis, because they don’t want to know.”
Stewart also told GB News that his wife Sally, with whom he has four children, has been reduced “almost to a carer”.
my family have been amazing… i am blessed. https://t.co/CrI64JRMjF
— Alastair Stewart (@AlStewartOBE) September 10, 2023
Ms Mitchell told PA: “I think he articulated (the symptoms) really well and I would stress, obviously, everyone’s journey is a bit different, particularly vascular dementia, it does depend which part of your brain experiences that damage.
“So the symptoms can be this idea of slower thinking, it just takes a bit longer, and I think that aligns with his point about discombobulation – it can be really hard to… process information, follow instructions, maybe plan ahead.”
She added that people can have issues with movement, stability, finding the right words and personality changes.
“So some of the symptoms could align with a stroke, but some of them will also be about… damage to your brain,” Ms Mitchell said.
This could be down to a transient stoke and sufferers may not realise they have had a number of them, and they can build up to cause issues, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Ms Mitchell said: “Whether they’re minor or major (strokes)… (that) will influence which symptoms you see, different parts of your brain (are) responsible for different activities, for example.
“So Alzheimer’s disease, which is kind of the main disease that causes dementia, takes place in a certain part of your brain where your memory is… one of the classic symptoms for Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss.
Our thoughts are with Alastair Stewart and his family, following the news he has been diagnosed with vascular dementia. We praise Alastair for speaking so openly and honestly about his experience, while urging others to seek help if they have concerns.
— AlzheimersResearchUK (@AlzResearchUK) September 10, 2023
“With vascular dementia, it’s possible it’s been in a variety of different places. But again, often we do see that it will cause memory and thinking problems.”
Speaking about prevention, Ms Mitchell said “you can’t control” already being at risk of a stroke and there is a mix of “age genetics” and “health and lifestyle factors”.
She added: “Unfortunately, once you have one stroke, you are at greater risk of another… you see some brain damage, if you then have a lot of subsequent strokes or an infarction… you might then see further damage.
“There’s increasing evidence that you can reduce the risk of developing all types of dementia, particularly actually vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Broadly, the adage is what’s good for your heart is good for your brain… managing high blood pressure, managing cholesterol, regular exercise, not smoking, drinking sensibly, a healthy diet.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK is working to develop new ways of preventing and diagnosing vascular dementia as there are no specific treatments.