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Ten Important Facts About Dementia

By June 17, 2022June 30th, 2022Blog Health & Wellness
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Dementia can be very unsettling, whether you’re going through it yourself or watching someone else experience it. Understanding it better can make navigating this difficult situation easier.

Here are ten important things you should know.

1. What Is Dementia?

Dementia isn’t a disease; it’s more like a set of symptoms. It’s defined as a decline in memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills that’s severe enough to interfere with daily life.

2. Who Is Affected by Dementia?

Many people experience dementia, and those numbers are expected to grow. According to the CDC:

  • About 5.8 million people in the U.S. have dementia today.
  • 5.6 million of them are over the age of 65.
  • By 2060, it’s estimated that 14 million people will have dementia.
  • Minority populations will probably experience the largest increase in the number of cases.
  • Women are twice as likely to experience dementia as men, mostly because they tend to live longer.

One in three individuals over the age of 65 dies as a result of dementia. It kills more people than breast and prostate cancer put together.

3. Is Dementia Different from Normal Age-Related Memory Problems?

Many of us tend to get a little more forgetful as we age. This is called “normal cognitive decline.” If you sometimes can’t remember people’s names, where you put your keys, or why you walked into a particular room in your house, it’s not cause for alarm.

If these changes are more significant than expected for someone your age, but don’t interfere with your daily activities, that’s known as mild cognitive impairment. And mild cognitive impairment puts you at higher risk of developing dementia.

4. How Can You Tell If Someone Has Dementia?

There are some important signs that a person may be experiencing dementia:

  • Personality changes like becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.
  • Difficulties with planning or problem solving.
  • Struggling to complete routine tasks.
  • Confusion about what day or time it is or where they are.
  • New problems speaking or writing.
  • Misplacing things and then having trouble retracing their steps.
  • A decline in judgment, like becoming more susceptible to scams.
  • Becoming more and more withdrawn from work, social activities, and hobbies.

5. Are There Different Phases of Dementia?

Dementia tends to get worse over time and has specific phases.

  • In mild dementia, there are some cognitive problems but they don’t affect someone’s ability to function independently.
  • In moderate dementia, people start to need more help in their daily lives.
  • In severe dementia, people need full-time assistance with things like eating and dressing. Eventually they become unable to swallow, or control their bladder and bowel function. They are also more prone to infections such as pneumonia.

6. What Causes Dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known cause of dementia in the United States, but there are other causes too.

  • Frontotemporal dementia is caused by a buildup of abnormal “tau tangles” and TPD-43 proteins in the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes.
  • Lewy body dementia is caused by abnormal deposits of alpha-sinuclein protein, which is also involved in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Vascular dementia is caused by disruptions of blood flow to the brain, often due to strokes.

It’s important for researchers to understand these different causes of dementia so they can develop targeted treatments.

7. Are There Treatments for Dementia?

Dementia can’t be cured at this point, but there are some treatments that can make it progress more slowly or relieve some of the symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether any of these might be right for you or your loved one.

You can also ask your doctor about participating in a clinical trial for a dementia treatment, or use the clinical trial finder at alzheimers.gov to locate a trial in your area. Being involved in this research could benefit your own health as well as the health of others experiencing dementia.

8. What Can You Do to Help Prevent Dementia?

There is evidence that making positive changes in your lifestyle can help reduce your risk of dementia. For example:

  • Heart-healthy eating and getting lots of exercise
  • Maintaining social connections and staying mentally active

Experiencing head trauma can increase your dementia risk, so:

  • Always wear a seat belt when driving, bicycling, or riding a motorcycle.
  • Wear a helmet when participating in sports.
  • Try to minimize your risk of falling — by uncluttering your home and wearing sensible shoes, for instance.

9. How Do I Care For Someone Who Has Dementia?

More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care to someone with dementia. If you’re one of them, you know it can be very challenging, both emotionally and logistically.

The Alzheimer’s Association has some valuable tips for caregivers, including:

  • How to manage everyday care needs like bathing, grooming, and dressing
  • How to deal with changes in communication and behavior
  • How to support people with dementia in eating healthily and staying physically active
  • How to maintain safety in the home

10. Where Can I Find More Information and Support?

Hopefully this article has answered some of your most important questions about dementia. If you’re still looking for more information, here are some key places to turn: