An estimated 5.5 million Americans are currently living with dementia. Many individuals think that dementia just means that you have memory loss – but dementia can actually affect people in many different ways.
Dementia is not a disease
The word “dementia” is actually an umbrella term that describes different sets of symptoms that include issues with thinking, problem-solving, language and memory loss. Although Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, other types of dementia include frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and vascular dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 60% to 80% of all cases of dementia. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second more common type of dementia. There are other different types of conditions that can cause the symptoms such as vitamin deficiencies and also thyroid problems.
It’s more than just memory loss
Having a change in behavior with confusion, disorientation, delusions, and hallucinations, cravings for certain types of foods and also difficulty with communications have also been indicators of dementia.
While the symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia:
Ability to pay attention or focus
Judgement and reasoning
Language and communication
It’s important to remember, that just because someone has memory loss – doesn’t mean it’s Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. There are many different causes of memory problems. If you feel you might be experiencing any troubling symptoms, it’s important to follow-up with your doctor to see if your symptoms can be managed.
Dementia has a greater impact on women
With a greater number of females living way into their 80s, it is more common for women to develop dementia. Currently, out of those 5.5 million Americans living with dementia, 3.2 million of them are women. At the age of 65, women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, compared to a 1 in 11 chance for men.
Another study suggests that women may also be at greater risk of developing dementia because women tend to decline mentally at a faster rate (Knapton, 2015). Women with memory problems experience faster rates of cognitive decline than men and are also more susceptible to developing dementia after surgery.
Dementia is not an inevitable part of getting older
Even though the majority of people with dementia are over the age of 65, it’s not a normal part of getting older. Just because the likelihood of getting dementia will increase with age, it doesn’t mean someone will get it.
Doctors are now starting to understand the links between your health in your 40s, 50s, 60s and cognitive functions later in life. Studies have also found that health risk factors that contribute to heart diseases – such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity – may also contribute to developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
There is no treatment
The treatment of dementia depends on its cause. In the most progressive types of dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure or treatment, but there are ways to help slow or stop its progression.
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