Dementia and Alzheimer’s – The disease of forgetfulness takes a toll on the life of Aussies

As long as dementia is concerned, the statistics have always been brutal. If you’ve crossed 85 years of age, 1 among 4 will certainly suffer from dementia. After 95 years, the statistics will be 1 among 2. Age is undoubtedly the biggest risk factor with this disease of forgetfulness and the country is aging too rapidly. According to the figures in the Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia, a bleak picture has been painted. Presently, there are around 416,000 Australians who are suffering from dementia, among which 58% are women. This number is predicted to take a leap to 556,000 by 2025 to a staggering 1.1 million by 2050.

What is the driving factor behind this rapid aging community? Age is the number one cause behind so many people developing this neurodegenerative disease. Currently, there are more than 4000 Aussies who have crossed 100 years of age and this ageing of the Baby Boomer generation is bringing about a major overhaul to the society’s horizon and is massively contributing to the challenge of dementia. 

Isn’t this posing as a financial burden for the Australian economy?

The same report mentioned above speaks clearly about the staggering financial burden that the economy and the individuals have to carry for providing proper care for dementia patients. In 2018, it cost $15 billion to fund hospital, medical aged care and community care to support all those Aussies who are living with dementia. Expert analysts are of the opinion that this cost will climb up by another $4 billion, thereby damaging the plans of the Federal government to rein in the nation’s budget. 

Hence, it is pretty clear that the dementia caring challenge will definitely have an impact on all of us, on the people who are being diagnosed, their family members, their caregivers and also on the wider economy of the nation. Before the numbers start overwhelming the nation, it is best to plan an approach to solve this ballooning health issue. 

Are there hopes to expand dementia care?

It has been found out that majority who suffer from dementia live with it for around 5-15 years and major part of the time, they tend to stay back at home as this is the place where they feel mostly comfortable. This is also a cheaper step for the federal government. Extended and improved dementia care is imperative if you have the motive of keeping the individual suffering from the disease and their families, content and also tackle the financial cost of the disease. 

However, there are several with dementia who require residential care at a definite stage with the gradual development of the disease. To get the best quality, affordable and well-staffed home care, you may check out for more details. There is also some positive ray of hope which proves that there is something good that is going to happen. Even if there could be a 5% reduction in the total number of people who suffer from dementia, there could be an accumulated savings of $6 billion for 2018-2025 and a whopping $123 billion by 2056. 

An overview of the disease of forgetfulness – There’s more to it than just losing memory

The most common kind of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and it is an umbrella term for a set of conditions which takes place whenever the brain stops functioning in a proper manner. Alzheimer’s usually occurs among the aged and it leads to problems in behavior and thinking. During the initial stage, the symptoms are usually negligible but when the disease progresses, this starts damaging the brain and then the symptoms starts worsening. The rate at which Alzheimer’s progresses is not same for all but on an average, a person with this disease can live normally for 8 years before the beginning of the actual symptoms. 

Though there are presently no such treatment to stop the progression of this disease, there are certainly medicines to treat the symptoms of dementia. In the last 3 decades, there have been several researches on dementia which have contributed a better understanding of how it affects the human brain. Based on these researches, researchers are constantly looking for effective treatments and ways in which they could prevent the disease from damaging brain health. 

Memory loss is not the only symptom of dementia – What are the other symptoms?

People often believe that memory loss is equivalent to dementia but it is not always so. If someone’s memory fails, that doesn’t always mean that he is suffering from dementia but that might just be one symptom of the disease. When we grow old, our brains change and there might be occasional issues with remembering things. Dementia and Alzheimer’s can cause memory loss and several other symptoms. Apart from losing memory, here are few symptoms that you may watch out for:

  • Difficulty in completing jobs which once seemed to be easy enough
  • Trouble in solving major issues
  • Social withdrawal and withdrawing from family members and friends
  • Alterations in personality and mood
  • Confusion regarding people, places and events
  • Difficulty in communication, both spoken or written
  • Visual difficulties like problems in reading and understanding pictures

Friends and family members who are always staying with you are the ones who recognize these changes before the person himself. So, if you know someone who is suffering from dementia, make sure you advise him to get a medical evaluation done to find out the reason behind such changes to his brain. 

Potential risk factors which drive Alzheimer’s and dementia

Although there are still no researchers or analysts who understand each and every set of reason behind people suffering from Alzheimer’s, yet thanks to the several researchers that we can now understand few of the factors which put you at a higher risk of developing dementia. 

  • AGE: Age is probably the biggest risk factor for developing this neurodegenerative mental health disorder and as someone reaches 65 years of age, his chance of developing this disease starts to double every 5 years. Onset of this disease among the younger generation is less common. It has been seen that around 5% people suffering from Alzheimer’s develop it at a younger age. When developed at a younger age, it is often not properly diagnosed. 
  • GENETICS: Scientists have reportedly said that there are many gene variants which boost the chance of having this disease. One of the most common risky genes is APOE-e4 and this is directly related to Alzheimer’s. There is a stark difference between risk genes and deterministic genes as the former can guarantee and assure that someone will develop a disease. There are very rare occurrences of Alzheimer’s being caused by a deterministic gene. 
  • CARDIOVASCULAR ISSUES: There are several researches which prove that there is a close relation between brain health and the health of your blood vessels which reach your heart. It is through blood that your brain gets the required nutrients and oxygen which it needs to function properly. Henceforth, factors like cardiovascular issues can be linked with higher chances of Alzheimer’s. Obesity, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes are few other risk factors for dementia. 
  • MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT: When someone suffers from MCI or mild cognitive impairment, there are certain changes that occur to your ability to think. However they won’t interfere with your regular life and aren’t as severe as those symptoms which are caused by dementia. MCI will not always progress but it may also remain stable or reverse. 
  • BRAIN INJURY: There is an increased risk of dementias and Alzheimer’s if you have suffered from any serious brain injury like damage to your skull or a severe blow to your head which might have caused unconsciousness or amnesia. 50% of the serious brain injuries are a result of car accidents. Athletes have a chance of sustaining repeated brain injuries and hence they have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. 
  • ALZHEIMER’S & EDUCATION: Studies link fewer years of education with a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Though there isn’t a reason for this link but there are some who believe that formal education can boost connections between neurons, letting the brain to use other routes of neuron communication. 

Treating Alzheimer’s and providing support to patients

While it is true that there are presently no such definite treatments to stop or slow down the progression of brain damage that is caused by Alzheimer’s, there are several medicines which enhance symptoms of dementia for few people. These medicines work by boosting neurotransmitters in human brain. Researchers are still watching out for ways to treat this disease along with other forms of dementias. There are also dozens of therapies which focus on arresting the death of brain cells which are associated with dementia. 

It is vital to have a support system in place in order to improve the quality of life of the person who is suffering from dementia. Few ways include:

  • Treating co-existing medical conditions
  • Participating in such activities which can uplift your mood
  • Coordinating care among several health professionals
  • Educating about the disease
  • Behavioral interventions
  • Building an entire team for providing support

Preventing dementia can be possible – Few steps to take

As we see that Alzheimer’s is on its way to hit vastly proportions, it is imperative that this disease is diagnosed on time and is prevented in a way that’s possible. Apart from the emotional devastation that is linked with memory loss, it can also lead to financial ruin. Check out few things that you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s from affecting you. 

  • Keep your mind engaged by learning a new language

Do you think learning a new language is taxing for your mental health? If answered yes, you are thinking on the wrong track as experts always suggest you to keep your mind engaged by learning a new language if you have to keep dementia at bay. Apart from raising awareness and gaining knowledge on cultural disparities, you can also improve your vocabulary. This can help you delay the onset of the disease by at least 4 years. 

  • Drink vegetable juice and whole fruits

There are many researchers which prove that drinking vegetable juices and eating whole fruits more than thrice a week can cut down the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s by at least 78%. Have more fruits and make juices to stay hydrated. 

  • Eliminate stress

There are several studies which have linked development of Alzheimer’s with anxiety, particularly among people who stand the risk of developing this disease. A recent study showed that individuals with cognitive impairment and who reported extreme levels of anxiety were 140% more vulnerable to developing Alzheimer’s. 

  • Add Vitamin K to your diet

Vitamin K is called the forgotten vitamin as most people forget about its extreme benefits. Vitamin K plays a vital role in anti-aging and this can diminish the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. If you think you’re taking multi-vitamins and that is fine for you, you’re wrong as Vitamin K is not included in these multivitamins. You can also take in green vegetables as they too contain Vitamin K. 

  • Commit to regular workout

Did you know how regular exercise can preserve your hippocampal volume which is the initial part of the human brain which is affected due to Alzheimer’s? You can opt for proper exercise choices which include dancing, brisk walking, cycling, swimming and even gardening. These exercises will help you stay on top of your toes. 

  • Take out time for meditating

It is vital for everyone to quiet their mind and this is way more important for people who are trying their best to keep dementia at bay. Studies reveal that people who perform yoga and meditation had less brain issues as compared to those who didn’t. 

So, if warding off dementia is all that you have in mind, make sure you get it diagnosed earlier and start taking all the steps to prevent its progression.