The development of dementia is one of the most feared age-related diseases that can develop.
It can rob you of your personality and it can be heartbreaking for your loved ones.
Dementia affects a person’s ability to communicate and requires constant care in their later stages.
Ultimately, cognitive damage caused by the shrinking or “atrophying” of the brain leads to organ failure and death.
One in 14 people over the age of 65 develops it, and the condition affects one in six people over 80.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Syndrome is the second leading cause of death in the UK.
The frightening syndrome is often characterized by memory loss, but it can manifest itself in different ways in humans.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often confused. Put simply, Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia in which the brain atrophies (shrinks) and brain cells die.
This, along with vascular dementia, makes up the majority of dementia cases.
Why do people get dementia?
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, dementia is not a natural part of aging and is caused when a disease damages nerve cells in the brain.
The more nerve cells are damaged, the less the brain can work properly.
Dementia can be caused by many different diseases, but 19 out of 20 people with dementia have one of the four main causes, which affect the brain in different ways.
The main causes of dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s disease – The most common cause, often linked to memory loss and communication problems
- Vascular dementia – Disrupts blood flow to the brain, confused decision making is a main symptom
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) – Causes abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain and can lead to hallucinations, confusion, and character changes
- Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) – sometimes also called Pick’s disease often leads to personality changes and language problems.
What are the first symptoms of dementia?
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating and cloudy thoughts
- It is difficult to do familiar daily tasks
- Difficulty following a conversation or finding the right word
- Confusion about time and place
- Mood swings and / or depression
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact your family doctor immediately.
The earlier you recognize dementia, the easier it is to treat it. While there is still no cure, treatments can slow the progression of the syndrome.
Since dementia is a product of many different diseases, not a single cure is likely to be developed.
The NHS offers a free health check-up to assess your general health for anyone between the ages of 40 and 74.
This can help doctors spot the early signs of dementia and tell you if you are at high risk. You can request your free check-up here.
New research has also shown that hearing loss, loneliness, sitting most of the day, and untreated depression can all increase your risk.