Dementia Awareness Week

Date: Sunday, May 14, 2017

This week is Dementia Awareness Week and here at One to One with the help of the Alzheimer's Society have gathered some information to help you know more

During May 14th-20th 2017 it is Dementia Awareness Week across the UK. With the help of the people at the Alzheimer's Society, we have put together some information about dementia and how to reduce your risks of getting the illness. In January 2017 the Alzheimer's Society released information about dementia which stated that, 850,000 in the UK are currently suffering from dementia, and that more than 42,000 of those people were under the age of 65.  

What causes dementia?

Dementia can be caused by many diseases, here are the most common types of dementia and what causes them:

  • Alzheimer's Disease - Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia. An abnormal protein surrounds the brain cells and other protein damages their internal structure. In time the chemical connections between the brain cells are lost and begin to die. 
  • Vascular Dementia - If the oxygen supply to the brain is reduced because of narrowing or blockages in the blood vessels, some brain cells can become damaged and die. The symptoms will either show suddenly, after one large stroke or develop over time because of a series of small strokes. Vascular dementia can also be caused by a disease affecting the small blood vessels deep in the brain known as, subcortical vascular dementia.
  • Mixed Dementia - This is when a person has more than one type of dementia and suffers from a mixture of the symptoms. It is common for someone to have Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia together. 
  • Frontotemporal Dementia - The front and side parts of the brain are damaged by clumps of abnormal proteins that form inside brain cells causing them to die. The most obvious signs are changes in behaviour and personality. 
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies - This includes tiny abnormal structures (Lewy Bodies) forming inside brain cells. The disrupt in the chemistry of the brain and end up causing the death of brain cells. Dementia with Lewy bodies is often related to Parkinson's disease and often has some of the same symptoms, including difficulty in movement. 

Who can get dementia?

In the UK around 850,000 people suffer from dementia. It mainly affects people over the age of 65, which amounts to around one person in every 14 in the age group. Dementia does also affect younger people. There are more than 42,000 people in the UK under 65 with dementia. Scientists are investigating how dementia might be hereditary. In a small number of people, certain types of dementia are passed down through a single gene. People with these genes normally develop dementia before 65. Everyone else inherits a combination of genes that increase or decrease the risk of developing dementia.

How can you diagnose dementia?

If you believe you are suffering from dementia it is important to see your GP to make an initial assessment. It is important if you believe you are having memory issues to get a proper assessment. These problems can be caused by treatable conditions or infections. Dementia is normally diagnosed by a specialist doctor such as a psychiatrist, a geriatrician or a neurologist. A diagnosis is made on a combination of things because there is no single test. These include:

  • Taking a 'history' - this will be your doctor talking to you and someone close to you to discover how the problem started 
  • Tests of mental abilities
  • Physical examination and tests 
  • A scan of the brain

How is dementia treated?

The majority of causes of dementia cannot be cured, although research is continuing to develop drugs, vaccines and other medical treatments. There is a range of non-drug treatments available to help someone with dementia live a full and supported life. Some of these include:

  • Talking therapies
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Cognitive stimulation therapy
  • Cognitive rehabilitation 

There are also drugs that can help the symptoms of dementia and in some cases stop them progressing for a while. A wide range of drugs may be prescribed at different stages of dementia. These include drugs for, depression or anxiety, sleeping tablets or antipsychotics. Health professionals generally recommend a non-drug approach at first, unless a person's symptoms are very severe. 

Can you reduce your chances of getting dementia?

It is not usually possible to say for sure why a person will develop dementia. Some factors such as high blood pressure, lack of exercise and smoking can all lead to narrowing of the arteries increasing your risk. There is, however, evidence that suggests a healthy lifestyle, especially during midlife can reduce your risk of dementia. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and drinking alcohol only in moderation are all linked to reduced risk of dementia. There is also evidence to suggest that keeping mentally and socially active in later life may help to lower a person's risk of dementia.

If you are already living with conditions such as diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure or high cholesterol should follow professional advice to keep the condition under control. 

For more information or donate to the Alzheimer's Society click here.
*All dementia information courtesy of the Alzheimer's Society,

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