Tag Archives: Sport

Demystifying Dementia

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This event was all about raising awareness about the devastating disease- Dementia. I really enjoyed communicating this fascinating but equally important scientific topic to a diverse audience, ranging from 4-90+. Science communication is becoming ever more so a prevalent skill for upcoming scientists who wish to elucidate their research and the work of others to an audience who have not been fortunate enough to conduct the research themselves or learn from those that have. Dementia is affecting older people every year as well as younger people (it was previously thought that 17,000 young adults had dementia, this was an underestimate and it has since been found that 40,000 have the Alzheimer’s disease). Dementia costs the NHS £26.3bn overall, and the government is considering imposing care tax to pay for the shortfall.

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This, I believe, is an injustice to the victims of a disease where no definitive cause has being established. It is wrong to enable health free care to patients with heart conditions for those who have led an unhealthy lifestyle, and deny the right of the elderly who have paid into the systems for many decades and led otherwise, healthy lives. I talked about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and possible treatments successfully and reassuringly to the audiences, as well attempt inspire younger public members to keep fit and lead an active life… some inparticular were more eager than others! One girl would not stop having a go on the exercise bikes! I am a passionate sportswoman and really enjoy having a healthy lifestyle, and I wanted to share my experience with others and encourage them to live a fitter and more exhilarating life through exercise.

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Before I go on, here are some quick facts about what Dementia actually is:

# 1 What is Dementia?

It is a set of symptoms as a result of several diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Lewey Bodies, Fronto-temporal and Vascular dementia which cause the typical set of symptoms such as:

-Loss of coordination

-Difficulty of remembering times during the day, appointments

-Difficulty with speech, slurring words

Uncoordinated movements

Confusion, fear and anxiety

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Depending on which disease has caused the specific set of symptoms, they can vary enormously. This is why it is VITAL to go to your GP to check this out. They will run a thorough set of checks: blood tests (to see if there is another cause, for example side effects of medication), CAT and MRI scans of the brain, physiologist will perform mental tests to see how the brain copes as well as other in-depth memory tests. There is plenty of info on their website: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

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The event was very rewarding and I believe the general public also felt that they had a great experience. The first day on the Saturday I was a little nervous, however as people began asking questions and showed genuine interest I really enjoyed myself, and Sunday I had “rehearsed” the talks. The range of different ages of general public members was large and certainly more interesting. What did work very well was the How brains work stand, with the rat/mouse/snail brains and neurone pipe cleaners, the children were simply enthralled and fascinated by these real life organs, and the younger children were delighted to have something soft and colourful to make and then take home. The adults, to my surprise, asked quite a lot of questions with regards to the symptoms and diagnosis of dementia on this table, which I had prepared for with the excellent notes provided on the Alzheimer’s society website.

The How Science works stall with the chromatography and gel electrophoresis was a bit hit, with the widest range of ages all participating on both activities. We had so many people at one point that we ran out of chromatography paper! We got the children to try a fusion of different patterns and colours from the chromatography which they loved, and the creating of a role play scientist really got them engaging with us and participating in the pipetting of the food colouring in the wells. The thought of dressing up as a scientist for many was the most fun out of the activities on the table, and parents enjoyed taking photographs of them.

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The multi-coloured chromatography designs were dried and stuck into their activity books to keep and show to their teachers; these booklets were most definitely popular and a good motive for the children to keep going around and get involved in all the activities. It was extremely rewarding to see the delight on their faces as they saw what they had created. When praising them for their work they were more willing to try out new activities and ask questions.

What didn’t work as well was the larger neurone which involved more children, it wasn’t as entertaining for them, and they felt slightly more embarrassed than doing the pipe neurones. I think in the future face painting would be a very good way to engage children and keep parents at the event for longer. BBC One show presenter Marty Jopson was also there with his children and wife, so that was a surprise! His children clearly had his love and passion for science, and were particularly good at the exercise bikes and blood pressure monitor testing.

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Having to tailor information for particular age group was initially challenging, but then as I gained more practice at it, I felt more confident in toning town the level of complexity for younger groups, then increasing it again for adults, and more so for academics. I certainly felt more confident in communicating with a broad range of people as well as approach people rather than wait and hold back for people to communicate with you. I never thought that I would be able to relate to children in a scientific manner which I did, and I truthfully felt rewarded when children were inspired and excited by the science we were explaining to them. I had to remember how to use my artistic side, having created a staggering 36 neurones! I really enjoyed myself and look forward to participating in some more, possible even consider leading an event now that I feel more confident.

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Having read up on Dementia and the diseases that cause it has giving me a new found interest in the science behind it, the proteins that cause such damage- talking to the PhD volunteers was interesting and I believe I have learnt a lot about the disease. It has inspired me to go on to do a 5k run for the Alzheimer’s society, and help those in need of care- it really is a good cause and I hope I can do my bit.

Here is the link to the Leeds University web page- the team of researchers are doing an AMZING job of trying to combat this deadly disease: http://www.stem.leeds.ac.uk/ai1ec_event/healthy-brains-leeds-demystifying-dementia/?instance_id=

July 16th Benahavis , Marbella

WOW! Today saw the most incredible river gorge system and had an amazing time at Benahavis, situated just 3 miles, beyond the glitz and glamour of the popular tourist and celebrity resort city of Marbella. Benahavis is a Spanish mountain village situated between Marbella, Estepona, and Ronda, approximately seven kilometres from the coast. It is dotted by an impressive 9 out of the 60 golf courses in the Costa Del Sol and is renowned for its restaurants, it is often called the dining room of the Costa del Sol. On the southern face of La Serrania de Ronda mountain range, Benahavis is one of the most mountainous villages on the western Costa del Sol. Situated near the resort beaches as well as the spectacular mountains of the Serrania de Ronda, its terrain is traversed by the rivers Guadalmina, Guadaiza, and Guadalmansa. It is place of great natural and historic beauty, such as El Cerro del Duque, Daidin, and the Montemayor Castle.

The town itself is surrounded by natural parkland, and retains a typical sleepy Spanish “pueblo” feel. La Zagaleta, an exclusive gated residential estate and country club overlooking the village, lies within its municipal boundaries, and contributes to Benahavis’ status as the richest municipality per capita in Andalucía, which is also clear from the rather luxuriant cars that cruised past us. In recent years there has been extended development of the village and the surrounding area with many hundreds of dwellings being built, not only reducing the percentage of local inhabitants, but also despoiling some of the beautiful landscapes in the mountains and approaches to the village.

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We arrived at 1pm at the car park to a stunning view of the mountain crags and cliffs, not a cloud in the sky and temperatures reaching 36 degrees; a climbers dream world. As we made our way down to the start of the trail, quite a few locals had beaten us to the large river pools that populated the valley gorge, many of which can be jumped into from great heights from the cliff edges. So we thought we would get stuck in too! A smallish jump of 5 metres to start off with into the turquoise waters of the river Guadalmina was a very refreshing and exciting way to start. I took my trainers off, rather disconcerted by the chance of them dragging me down a bit when I jumped in. Gosh, what a refreshing feeling that was to jump into such cool, clear waters after the short walk up to it. We then wanted to further pursue the trail down the river but were stopped in our tracks due a bridge being built overhead, and we were told that it would open up again later in the week or next day, so a rather vague answer. Nevertheless, we went back up and decided to pluck up the courage to jump off the 10metre cliff into the river pool! I was genuinely excited about it, although daunting at first, it was so much fun feeling the freedom of doing it, I can’t describe it! Truly euphoric.

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We all video recorded it with an underwater Olympus camera, will post up a link to it here soon. I jumped twice in the end! As we walked back up the car, we noticed that the red tape had been removed, and presumed that the bridge had been put up. So we refreshed ourselves and headed back up, after the girls flirted with some rather fit looking passer-byes, of course I was much too embarrassed to participate! I then jumped off the larger cliff edge for another thrill before we headed downstream. Many fish populated the large pools of water as well as the main river itself, and were busy avoid our clumsily placed feet. Emma remarked how amazingly good our ancestors would have been good at navigating the river with ease and being able to stalk their prey with subtle movements. We quite fancied the idea of ancestral Homo erectus picking their way through the same pathways, many thousands of years ago. The sight was amazing as we carefully picked are way downstream, hundreds of mating dragonflies danced in unison with their partners and they mated in mid-aid, such a delicate ritual and myriad of colour. Blue, black, fuchsia and emerald green filled the air like sheening confetti. This rather large one pictured below was dead unfortunately after its mating orgy, male dragonflies with compete with other males to mate with as many females as possible before dying.

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One part of the river revealed a mangrove-like back setting that was truly stunning. Couldn’t resist having a photo!

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We eventually got to a more enclosed cave-like part of the river gorge that was far more quiet and serene. We were all so excited to be seeing such beauty and found it thrilling in plunging into the deep darker waters. As we swam the rock formations above us were deeply grooved and shaped by water percolating through it, dripping on our heads which was a welcoming refreshing drink.

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Like the scene from 172 days! Don’t fall on us rock!

The water itself was again a deep turquoise/green colour and was welcomingly warm. Every time we rounded the corner new, stunning sights met us, and the views of the high La Serrania de Ronda mountain range, dotted with pine trees and scree slopes, contrasting against the deep blue sky-perfect weather. I sure did get a good tan that day! One of the pools looked like the scene from a Georgio Armani perfume photo shoot, was too tempting to ask someone to do a pose and throw their hair back! Lots of swimming, many “oh my gosh isn’t it beautiful’s” and many photos. We eventually reached the dam and soaked up the warmth from the sun at the top/ The bridge had literally just been put up and was not yet open to the public, but nevertheless, was up there and had enabled us to have the most incredibly fun afternoon.

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During the late 1990s, the Junta de Andalucía constructed a dam on the site of an old marble quarry, and now for much of the year the once ever-flowing Río Guadalmina is merely a dried-up river bed, but not here! Who would have thought that this tiny secluded little gorge, hidden from the “costa del sol” tourists would have been literally an hours drive from where I live? I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Southern Spain to go and visit it, its free and fun! It’s a bit tricky to get to, but there is plenty of parking and the walk to it is only 5 minutes. I will post up a map for you to follow, but its probably best to punch in the poscode to the town, then follow the bridge over towards the La Serrania de Ronda mountain range.

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Here is a 1:25000 map as promised, enjoy your adventures!

mapa benahavis