It’s common, among those unfamiliar with the different types of dementia, to think they’re all the same, including Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers into dementias want residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere to understand the distinctions, including which one is more likely to require hospice care in its final stages.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care has worked with a variety of patients who have experienced different types of dementias. We’ve also worked with plenty of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and we know how difficult the condition can be physically and mentally on the patient and on their loved ones as it progresses.
For those wanting more information on either, June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and a fine occasion to learn about some of the larger and smaller differences and distinctions. This better level of understanding can certainly be an asset especially as people continue to be diagnosed with various dementias, research continues into some of them and fund-raising also takes place for some of the more critical and prominent ones.
It also includes extra attention on June 21, “The Longest Day,” designed to encourage families to get involved in their communities or even organizing their own event if no one else is.
To begin our discussion/clarification, dementia is described as a series of specific symptoms that affect the brain, including mental abilities. It’s considered an ‘umbrella term’ that can include several types of dementia that can interfere with daily life. Some are more damaging, destructive and permanent than others.
Health care providers can often identify dementia by seeing if a condition’s symptoms involve at least three cognitive impairments.
Dementias can be caused by mental condition as well as physical health conditions. Possible causes can include trauma, degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, or damage and memory loss from heavy drinking or chronic substance use.
Strokes, where parts of the brain might be damaged from a sudden lack of blood flow, also could cause dementia.
Research shows that certain physical health conditions can increase the odds of certain forms of dementia, such as high blood pressure. Even general aging is considered a risk factor for some of them.
The most prominent form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which represents about 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.
About 5.8 million Americans have this progressive disease, and 5.6 million are aged 65 and older. Worldwide about 44 million suffer from it, and the risk of contracting it grows every year after someone turns 65.
Some forms of dementia are permanent since they involve damage to the brain or brain cells. But some can be reversed or even eliminated with medication, therapy, even exercise, and diet. One big exception is Alzheimer’s disease, which is a fatal disease that slowly attacks your mental faculties along with your physical faculties.
Dementia is also not something that everyone gets as they get older, although there’s a stereotype that it’s related to senility and the older you get, the more dementia you’ll receive.
More about Alzheimer’s disease
Although researchers still haven’t found a specific cause for Alzheimer’s disease or a way to reverse/eliminate it, the general mechanism is understood.
According to AlzheimerNewsToday.com, two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease are women, about 3.3 million and 1 million men.
It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of death for over age 65. The average expectancy is four to eight years after diagnosis. One person develops it every 66 seconds, but only 1 in 4 people with it have it diagnosed.
National projections show that the numbers of people with Alzheimer’s disease keeps growing, and the U.S. population with it could reach 16 million by 2050.
Although more research is needed about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, many studies do confirm the role of good health in resisting them or at least the role of poor health in making people more susceptible. Even you already have been diagnosed, taking steps improve your lifestyle can also extend the time between stages.
Exercise. Health experts recommend at least 20 minutes of exercise a day which can help with blood flow throughout the body, and also to the brain. This can also help your metabolism and burn off calories.
Diet. The Alzheimer’s Association said that several studies promote diets that are heart-healthy, especially the Mediterranean diet that includes grains, fish, vegetables, oil, and nuts.
Heart health. Look for ways to help your heart and reduce heart disease, such as quitting smoking and keep blood pressure low.
If you suspect dementia for yourself or a loved one, the first step is to get a health care provider involved. He or she may provide an exam or cognitive testing to give a diagnosis. Once this is known, it can give families a path to learn more about different health and wellness options.