Tearful TV legend Alastair Stewart reveals dementia diagnosis

GB News: Alastair Stewart announcing his dementia diagnosis

Britain’s longest-serving newsreader Alastair Stewart has revealed he is suffering from early onset vascular dementia.

The broadcasting legend was given the bombshell diagnosis after telling doctors that he felt agitated when trying to do basic household tasks. A scan showed that Alastair, 71 – who retired from GB News in March – had had a series of minor strokes.

Close to tears, he told the channel y­esterday: “And the cumulative effect of that was I had a diagnosis of early onset vascular dementia.”

He added: “The headline story, and it is relatively dramatic, I suppose, is about six, nine months ago, I began to feel a bit discombobulated. I then decided I might have something wrong.”

Alastair went to his doctor and was referred for the scan, which found the brain-wasting illness.

READ MORE Alastair Stewart shares heartbreak of wife being his carer after ‘minor strokes’

He said in the interview that his “motor skills are very tricky and very short-term memory is tricky.

“I wasn’t becoming forgetful but things like doing up your shoelaces properly, making sure your tie was straight, remembering the call time for your programme is four o’clock and not five o’clock, not turning up early or late…stuff like that.”

The journalist, known for his time on ITV News and Channel 4, said that his supportive family had been “utterly brilliant” – but he had found it unspeakably hard to come to terms with the impact that the condition would ultimately have on their lives.

He has been married to TV production assistant Sally for 45 years and they have children Freddie, Clemmie, Oscar and Alexander.

Alastair said: “We’ve been married for nearly half a century, and, you know, your life partner, your lover, all of those descriptions that are personal and intimate, that person is reduced – I choose my words very carefully – almost to a carer.

“I find it tricky, because your health, through no fault of your own, is reducing this person who is the single most important person in your life to the role of a carer.”

He told viewers: “If you do think there’s something wrong with you, go and see the GP, listen to what he or she says. But also remember the people you work with and the people you live with and share your life with are the most important people in the entire world. And they are there if you’re lucky enough, as I was, to help you.”

Alastair spent more than 35 years as one of the most recognisable faces on ITV, before being signed by GB News for a show called Alastair Stewart And Friends.

He was credited with giving a helping hand to scores of youngsters who wanted a TV career, both in front of and behind the cameras.

Vascular dementia is a common type of the disease, caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

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Symptoms include slowness of thought and concentration problems. It affects some 180,000 people in the UK. Alastair said he is trying to lessen its effects – he has quit smoking and keeps active by walking his dogs and by tackling puzzles.

In his glittering career he covered stories including the Beslan school siege in Russia, the fall of the Berlin Wall and royal weddings.

He was Presenter of the Year at 2004’s Royal Television Society Awards and two years later was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting and charity.

Having started his career in 1976 in Southampton with ITV franchise Southern Television as a reporter, presenter and documentary maker, in 1980 he became industrial correspondent for ITN.

A decade later he was made its Washington correspondent, going on to anchor ITN’s coverage of the first Gulf War. Alastair was the first UK television reporter to broadcast live from liberated Kuwait City.

He chaired debates with political heavyweights including Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg before the 2010 General Election for ITV, and for GB News when Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss were vying for the Tory leadership.

As he quit TV he told viewers: “I’m nearly 71 and I still get the most tremendous lift from live television – it’s the best job in the world. However, the rigours of preparing for two live interview shows a week, and commuting from Hampshire to London for them, are considerable. I want to reduce my commitment while I’m still ahead as an old broadcaster, rather than an ancient one.”

Despite dementia being one of the greatest health challenges, many people do not know of its far-reaching and devastating effects.

An umbrella term for many brain-wasting diseases, it is classed as a social rather than health care issue – so people living with it have to pay for specialist help. The bills mean many have no choice other than to sell their homes.

Around one million live with dementia in Britain – 600,000 have Alzheimer’s. One in three people born today will go on to develop dementia, which remains incurable.

Estimates suggest two million will be struck down by 2050. Yet two in 10 people are unaware dementia is a cause of death. Last year it claimed nearly 66,000 lives in England and Wales but diagnosis rates lag at a five-year low.

Two months ago scientists hailed a “turning point” in the war on dementia as tests showed experimental drug donanemab slowed Alzheimer’s by 60 percent, sparking calls for the NHS to prepare to distribute a new generation of therapies.Donanemab is the vanguard of immunotherapy drugs, widely used to treat diseases such as cancer.

It teaches immune cells to recognise and remove toxic protein amyloid, a hallmark of the disease. Similar trials of lecanemab found it reduced memory decline in those with early-stage dementia. It was approved for use on Medicare – the US equivalent of the National Health Service.

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Kate Lee said of Alastair: “Dementia devastates lives, but we need to get everyone talking about it because a problem of this scale won’t go away on its own.

“Receiving a diagnosis can be frightening, but we believe it’s better to know. We’re so grateful to Alastair for encouraging people worried about potential symptoms to seek advice.”

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