Although we have advanced exponentially as a species, we have made our infrastructure such that we can be protected from any major physical injuries. Despite this, in 2019, nearly 61,000 people lost their lives due to traumatic brain injury in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, even if a person is saved after a head injury, their chances of developing dementia down the road increase by 5 times. Dementia is a form of mental disorder that affects memory, speech, and cognitive abilities. Its symptoms vary greatly; however, most people who begin experiencing dementia have trouble remembering their daily schedule, where they left their wallet or keys, planning ahead, and recalling recent events. It can be extremely emotionally draining to patients’ families. Here are some facts about this disorder:
1. Not a Single Disease
While most people think of dementia as a single disease, it is a general term given to some diseases that damage the brain’s neuron network. Any disorder that is caused by abnormal changes in the brain due to neurological diseases or physical damage is referred to as dementia. There is a notable shrinkage in the brain size and nerves die in the affected area.
2. Different Types of Dementia
In total there are 11 types of dementia, and most of them have different frequencies of occurrences. These are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Mixed dementia
- Lewy Body dementia
- Huntington’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Normal-pressure hydrocephalus
- Posterior cortical atrophy
- Parkinson’s disease dementia
- Korsakoff syndrome
3. Worrying Statistics
A worrying statistic released by Alzheimer’s Disease International states that every 3 seconds someone develops dementia across the world. In the year 2020, there were over 55 million recorded cases of dementia, and according to experts, this number will cross the 78 million mark by 2030, and by the mid of this century, people suffering from dementia will likely be in the range of 139 million.
4. Amidst Financial Crisis
The previously mentioned statistics are said to most likely occur in developing nations, and most of the dementia patients will likely be from low to middle-income households. Presently, they make up for 60% of entire dementia patients, and it is said that by 2050, their percentage will rise to 71%.
5. Most Common Type of Dementia
Among all the types of diagnosed dementia, 60% to 80% cases are of Alzheimer’s disease. It can cause a general lack of short-term memory, mood swings, confusion during tasks that require attention like handling transactions, hallucinations, and an overall lack of appropriate behavioral understanding. It was discovered in 1903 by Alois Alzheimer, a German researcher and pathologist. During the 37th Congress of Psychiatrists of Southern Germany in 1906, Alzheimer gave a talk describing that he had found an “unusual disease of the cerebral cortex” in a female patient, Auguste D.
6. It Targets All
Although dementia is mostly seen in the elderly, it can happen to just about anyone. The reason behind this is how it occurs in the first place. According to experts, dementia is the result of diseases that target the brain and brain cells; however, it has also been observed that people suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and arteriosclerosis also develop dementia as they age. Therefore, any person that is suffering from chronic diseases is vulnerable to dementia.
7. Women at a Higher Risk
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women are more likely to experience dementia than men. Out of all the diagnoses of dementia, nearly twice the number of women had dementia as men. Moreover, the severity of the brain shrinkage was also higher in women. The reason behind this is not fully understood but researchers say it must be due to women’s strong immune systems.
Women with dementia outnumber men by two to one – and researchers are only just starting to work out why | inews https://t.co/DCPxXbn0Pq
— Women's Brain Project (@womensbrainpro) January 5, 2020
8. Education is the Key
Any form of education, whether it be traditional education, learning a new language, learning musical instruments, or learning new skills can significantly lower the risk of dementia according to the National Institute on Aging. A study’s result released in 2010 by a team of researchers from the UK and Finland reestablished this to be true. This study was led by Professor Carol Brayne of the University of Cambridge, it is considered one of the most extensive studies, and only three studies like this are conducted throughout history. It took over 20 years to complete, and researchers examined the brain of 872 patients who had agreed to it by signing a contract and completing a series of questionnaires. Professor Carol Brayne’s team found that with each year that is spent learning, the risk of dementia is dropped by 11%.
Education is known to be good for population health and equity. This study provides strong support for investment in early life factors which should have an impact on society and the whole lifespan.”
9. Not Inherited
One aspect that is relieving about this disorder is that dementia is not an inherited disease, which means even if both parents had developed dementia it is unlikely that their child will also suffer from it.
10. Age is Not a Factor
Previously, it was believed that dementia develops and worsens in old age; however, it is not true. People who are living a healthy lifestyle with adequate mental stimulation may never have to face this disorder, whereas, even young people suffering from other diseases can develop dementia.
11. It Worsens and No Cure is Available
Dementia progresses in stages similar to cancer, and with each new stage, the damage to the brain increases. Unfortunately, even if it is caught in the initial stage, it is not much help, as there is no treatment available for it that provides a certain cure; however, if it is diagnosed early, it can be prolonged with the help of medication. Sadly, if it isn’t found early on, it starts to worsen significantly before the symptoms even surface.