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EastEnders legend Dame Barbara Windsor has been battling Alzheimer’s for four years, devastated husband reveals

Mirror logo Mirror 10/05/2018 Steve Robson
Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: PA

Eastenders legend Dame Barbara Windsor has been battling Alzheimer's for four years, her devastated husband has revealed.

The TV icon, now 80, was given the devastating diagnosis in April 2014, but kept it private until now.

Her husband Scott Mitchell, 55, said they have now chosen to make her condition public as Barbara's symptoms have deteriorated in recent weeks.

He told The Sun: "Firstly, I hope speaking out will help other families dealing with loved ones who have this cruel disease.

Barbara Windsor et al. posing for the camera: Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty

"Secondly, I want the public to know because they are naturally very drawn to Barb­ara and she loves talking to them."

"So rather than me living in fear she might get confused or upset, they’ll know that if her behaviour seems strange, it’s due to Alzhei­mer’s and accept it for what it is."

The couple said Barbara - known affectionately to the nation as 'Babs - went to the doctor after suffering increasing memory loss and confusion.

Doctors carried out mental agility tests and did a brain scan before confirming the heartbreaking diagnosis.

Barbara Windsor wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Credits: Getty Images Europe © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images Europe

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia with an estimated 850,000 people suffering in the UK.

It is a progressive disease which affects multiple brain functions including memory.

On average, people with Alzheimer's live for eight to ten years after they start to develop symptoms, however this can develop vastly from person to person.

Struggling to contain tears, Scott added: "When the doctor told us, she began crying then held it back, stretched her hand out to me and mouthed, 'I’m so sorry...'

"I squeezed her hand back and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be OK’."

Barbara Windsor looking at the camera: Credits: REX/Shutterstock © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: REX/Shutterstock

Scott, who married Barbara in 2000, said it has been "more difficult for us to hide" since she turned 80 last summer.

He said he has been aware of "rumours" in showbusiness circles and he can "no longer protect her".

Scott added: "I’m doing this because I want us to be able to go out and, if something isn’t quite right, it will be OK because people will now know that she has Alzheimer’s and will accept it for what it is."

The much-loved actress is still able to communicate and the couple enjoy walks and trips out.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Credits: BBC © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: BBC

But Scott says he "lives in terror" of there being an incident where she becomes confused or doesn't "look right".

He said Barbara has often asked him if the public knows she is "not well" and consented for him to give an interview.

"But if she forgets that she gave me her blessing, well, I’ll just have to deal with that," he added.

Born in Shoreditch, east London, Barbara Windsor has been a star of the screen and stage since she was 12-years-old.

She made her name in the 'Carry On...' films of the 1960s before moving into theatre.

a person standing in front of a store: Credits: BBC © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: BBC

But her career was defined by her long-running role as feisty barmaid Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders.

She first joined the show in 1994 and made the character her own.

Fiercely protective of friends and family from her perch behind the Queen Vic, she became famous for her catchphrase "Get outta my pub!"

In 2009, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award and Peggy has frequently been named as one of the most memorable characters on British TV of all time.

In 2016, Barbara was made a Dame Commander of the order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

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