A staggering 47 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. In 2017, nearly 10 million new cases will be diagnosed. Dementia is broadly defined as a mental decline that interferes with daily life. The most well-known symptom of dementia is memory loss. People often think dementia only affects elderly patients with Alzheimer's disease. However, dementia shows up in many different forms and can affect younger populations as well.
Top Four Types of Dementia
Dementia is a broad term that refers to the overall mental decline dementia patients experience. However, there are various kinds of dementia that affect different parts of the brain. The most common types of dementia are:
Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common type of dementia. It accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. Alzheimer's disease shows up as plaque, tangles, and nerve cell damage in the brain.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. This type of dementia occurs when the blood vessels that supply your brain are damaged.
Lewy Body Dementia
"Lewy bodies" are unusual clumps of proteins in the brain that lead to dementia.
Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia
This type of dementia occurs when the nerve cells that control personality, behavior, and language are damaged.
Goals for Good Health
Genetics, environment, and lifestyle influence your risk of developing dementia. Pre-determined risk factors include:
People over the age of 65 are at increased risk of developing dementia. However, it's important to note that people under the age of 65 account for 9% of dementia patients.
Although family history is a risk factor, many people with a family history will not develop dementia. Likewise, people with no known family history can still be at risk.
People with Down Syndrome have an increased risk of developing dementia by middle age.
Luckily, there are many lifestyle factors you can work on that will improve your chances of avoiding dementia. They include:
Heavy drinking increases your risk of developing dementia.
Keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight under control decreases your risk of developing dementia.
Depression, especially later in life, can increase your risk of dementia. Taking care of your mental health, being socially engaged, and pursuing new interests can help.
Keeping on track with your diabetes treatment decreases your risk of dementia.
Smoking puts you at greater risk of developing dementia.
If you have sleep apnea, make sure to follow your care plan. Poorly managed sleep apnea increases your risk of dementia.
Be Aware and Take Care
Symptoms of dementia depend on which area of the brain is being affected. Memory loss is often the first sign of dementia. Other symptoms include:
- Trouble communicating and finding the right words
- Problems planning, organizing, and completing tasks
- Trouble recognizing familiar people, places, and events
- Impaired judgment and decision making
- Mood swings, agitation, and depression
- Not maintaining personal hygiene
- Change in appetite and sleep
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to see your doctor for a thorough assessment. Dementia doesn't just affect the elderly or those with a family history. Be proactive. Take positive steps towards a healthy lifestyle, and don't delay receiving medical care for your health concerns.