Now what was I writing about? Short-term memory loss is one of the earliest signs of dementia. We all experience forgetting someone’s name or searching for a particular word, but when forgetfulness begins to interfere with common everyday tasks, it may be time to talk to your doctor.
Dementia is a blanket term for an impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. It is primarily a disease of aging; however, dementia is NOT an inevitable part of aging. Women comprise 65 percent of cases. Seventy percent of care to those suffering from dementia is done in the home by women.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 60-80 percent of cases. It is thought to be caused by a buildup of certain proteins around brain cells that interfere with cells’ ability to communicate with one another. The next common form is vascular dementia where blood flow to the brain is impaired by inflammation or atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This deprives the brain’s cells of vital nutrients and oxygen.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s currently affect over 6 million Americans, with about one in nine over the age of 65 having Alzheimer’s. New cases continue to increase as the large population of baby boomers ages. It is estimated that there will be more than 12.7 million people affected by Alzheimer’s by the year 2050 in the U.S. alone.
With a lack of a formal diagnosis, particularly in low-income areas, this number likely now and will be considerably higher. Additionally, the impact on younger generations can be significant because they may need to care for those afflicted with dementia.
The good news is, there has been a 13 percent decline in dementia incidence over the past three decades. This may be due to cardiovascular risk management and improved stroke care. Healthy body, healthy mind perhaps? Regular readers of this column know there are many simple steps you can take to prevent chronic disease. These same lifestyle modifications may reduce the incidence of dementia.
As a reminder:
• eat a healthy diet; maintain a healthy weight, and manage your blood sugar
• don’t smoke, or quit if you currently smoke
• get regular sleep and exercise
• engage in cognitive stimulation
• have positive social interactions
• treat high blood pressure
• treat depression
• limit alcohol intake
• protect your hearing
• avoid head injury
• avoid air pollution and secondhand smoke
Having a family history of dementia does not necessarily mean you will develop dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientists continue to do research and focus on new treatment options and prevention. We can do our part to age gracefully by following these guidelines and we may just enjoy ourselves along the way.
For more information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website: www.alz.org
Questions About Health & Medicine?
The health professionals at Lutheran Medical Center are happy to share their knowledge of health and medicine with their neighbors. If there is a topic you’d like them to write about, send a short email to email@example.com and we’ll forward it to them for consideration.
Jessica Telesco is the stroke coordinator in Neurosciences at Lutheran Medical Center.