As the population ages, we are faced with an increase in cognitive impairment diagnoses. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not a normal part of aging; therefore caregivers should be alert to symptoms that can be treated.
Unfortunately, statistics reveal virtually all of us will eventually be affected, either directly or indirectly.
Learning more about the various types of dementia, risk factors and prevention tips will help you face the fear of Alzheimer’s and other dementias so you and your senior loved will seek treatment if needed.
The statistics of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are staggering:
- Every 69 seconds in America someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease
- There are 24 million people living with some form of dementia worldwide
- 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s currently
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US
- There are as many as 50 types of dementia in addition to Alzheimer’s
- The aging population of those 65 years or older in the US exceeded 40 million in 2010
- Half of those over 85 years and older will develop dementia
- One of the world’s fastest growing diseases
Many who have not yet been personally affected by one of these diagnoses may be unsure about the terms, what they all mean and what is the difference between the different types of dementia. So we decided that the time is right to help explain the differences because KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
What is dementia?
It is a group of symptoms and not actually a disease itself. Dementia is the loss of memory, critical thinking patterns, intellectual ability and reasoning skills which impairs the ability of a person to complete daily activities. If dementia is caused by trauma or disease, it is not reversible. If however, it is caused by medications, depression, vitamin or hormone imbalance or alcohol it can be reversed with proper treatment. This is why it is important to have any suspicions you may have of new symptoms checked out by a doctor in case treatment can improve the situation and outcome.
Types of dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease which accounts for approximately 50-70% of all dementia is an age related memory loss disease that affects the brain. It is a progressive disease which worsens over time. People with Alzheimer’s are unable to follow written or spoken directions, forget experiences and eventually are unable to care for themselves.
- Mixed dementia is one that combines more than one type of dementia simultaneously and may be more common than previously thought.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) disease is marked by memory loss and thinking impairments but may include visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances and rigidity with Parkinson’s disease movement features.
- Parkinson’s disease as it progresses often includes progressive dementia. Symptoms of this type mimic Lewy Bodies.
- Vascular dementia, also known as multi-infarct dementia, is the second most common cause of dementia. The first sign may be impaired judgement or inability to plan steps needed to complete a task, unlike Alzheimer’s where memory loss is usually the first sign. It often progresses more quickly after diagnosis.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is the most common human form of a rare fatal brain disorder. Variant “mad cow disease” occurs in cattle and has been transmitted to people.
- Huntington’s Disease is also a progressive brain disorder with a defective gene on chromosome 4. It includes involuntary movements with a decline in brain and thinking skills, mood changes and depression.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 or thiamine usually associated with alcohol abuse.
Risk factors for dementia:
- Genetics and family history
- Vascular impairments affecting the heart or blood vessels such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Serious head trauma
There is no current cure for dementia or proven way to delay its progression but only disease modifying treatments. However, there are things you can do to prolong the onset including: staying engaged and active both physically and mentally, healthy diet (especially heart healthy meal plans), maintaining strong social connections, avoiding excessive alcohol intake, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
Research is underway and advocacy for the disease grows daily. Together we will end Alzheimer’s! In the meantime, we need to prepare to care for loved ones who have it.