There are more than fifty million people who suffer from dementia in the world. The risk of dementia increases with increasing life expectancy- it doubles every five years after age 65. Dementia means a violation of the functions of the brain with a gradual loss of knowledge and skills. Very sixth person over 80 years old, every third over 85, every second after 90 years is diagnosed with dementia. It is estimated that in ten years there will be more than 80 million people with dementia. In the United States, this disease kills more people each year than breast cancer and prostate cancer together. At the same time, there are a lot of myths about dementia that everyone should know.
Myth 1: Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the same
In fact, dementia is a syndrome (a combination of symptoms) that can have many causes and one of them is Alzheimer's disease. Up to 70% of all cases of dementia are caused by this disorder. Less commonly, cognitive function impairment can be caused by cerebrovascular accident, Parkinson’s disease, low thyroid function, chronic brain infections, and even some medications. Sometimes deep depression is masked as dementia, and in other cases, depression is one of the symptoms of dementia. Therefore, it may be difficult to correctly diagnose the disease.
Alzheimer's disease occurs due to the abnormal accumulation of certain proteins in the brain cells and intercellular space. One of these proteins is amyloid, which is deposited in the form of plaques around nerve cells. The second one is tau protein, which is visible as tangles in the nerve cells. The tau protein is responsible for stabilizing microtubules, but in Alzheimer's disease, this protein changes its own structure. The causes of it are still unknown but scientists already know that these changes begin many years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s occur. This accumulation of proteins in and around the brain cells changes the biochemical properties of brain cells and disrupts their function. The brain regions responsible for memory are usually the first to be affected.
Myth 2: Alzheimer’s disease occurs only in older people
Although age is a serious risk factor, dementia is also found in young people. At the same time, a person gradually loses the skills accumulated over life, the speed of thinking, ingenuity, speech, and the ability to control mood and body. Alzheimer's causes at a young age may be alcohol abuse, drug addiction, brain tumors, head injuries, or infections. The formation of amyloid plaques is also characteristic of Down syndrome, that is, people with it are more likely to have dementia. Alzheimer's disease also has early forms when it is diagnosed at the age of about forty. One in twenty Alzheimer's patients is under the age of 65. It is very important to monitor brain health at any age. If you often experience brain fog, vision problems, and depression, you need to consult your primary care physician to get treatment in time and avoid health risks.
Myth 3: Alzheimer's disease is always caused by faulty genes
The most common gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease is a gene called apolipoprotein E (APOE) but even among people with this gene, only half to ninety years old develop dementia. Those who have had dementia in several generations of the family, for example, are at the highest risk of early dementia.
Although the causes of dementia including Alzheimer's disease are still unknown, it’s already clear that not only faulty genes are to blame. Actually, a sedentary lifestyle more often leads to Alzheimer’s disease than defective genes.
The identified risk factors include:
- age over 65
- traumatic brain injuries
- cardiovascular diseases
Doctors also recommend give up smoking, managing weight, and controlling cholesterol levels since smoking, obesity, and high cholesterol levels may result in dementia. In addition, recent studies show the importance of other factors indirectly responsible for the development of the disease. This is hearing loss, untreated depression, social isolation, and a sedentary lifestyle.