Wednesday, 29 Nov 2023

Dame Margaret Rutherford was more prone to Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'

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The Oscar-winning actress (for a supporting role in The V.I.P.s) developed Alzheimer’s disease in later life. As the most common form of dementia, the number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease is steadily increasing. When Dame Rutherford developed the brain-robbing disease, she was cared for by her husband, Stringer Davis, until her death on May 22, 1972.

Alzheimer’s is a risk for everybody over the age of 65, the Alzheimer’s Society points out.

“Above this age, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles about every five years,” the charity clarifies.

Another benchmark is 80 years old, which is the age that Dame Rutherford passed away, when “one in six” people develop dementia.

Dame Rutherford also checked off another risk factor for dementia – she was born a woman.

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“Alzheimer’s in women may be linked to loss of the hormone oestrogen after menopause,” the charity elaborates.

Health issues can contribute to a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Examples include uncontrolled diabetes, a history of stroke, and heart problems.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity in mid-life are additional factors.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

“For most people, the first signs of Alzheimer’s are problems with their memory,” the charity says.

“In particular, difficulties recalling recent events and learning new information.”

As the disease progresses, memory failures deepen, which can lead to:

  • Forgetting a friend’s name
  • Struggling to find the right word in conversations
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Forgetting significant dates.

Other issues with thinking, reasoning, language and perception are also likely to develop.

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There can also be mood changes, which can come across as anxiety, depression, and a short fuse.

Some people might develop delusions, which means they begin to believe things that are not true.

Less often, people who have Alzheimer’s disease can have hallucinations, where they see and hear things that aren’t really there.

All these symptoms are caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain and the reduction in brain tissue.

There is no cure for dementia, but medication is available to help relieve symptoms.

As for Dame Rutherford, the disease would have robbed her of her memories of being in the film industry.

The British star, who was born in Balham, London, on May 11, 1892, didn’t venture onto the silver screen till she was in her early 40s.

Her first televised appearance was in Troubled Waters (1936), aged 44; from there, she featured in Blithe Spirit (1945), and Murder She Said (1961).

Dame Margaret Rutherford starred in Murder At The Gallop, which is showcasing on Channel 5 at 2:55pm on Sunday, February 26.

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