Dementia is a cruel, debilitating syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. While dementia most commonly affects the old, it is not a necessary part of the ageing process as some people will live their whole lives without suffering any form of this decline. It is estimated that there are over 35 million people suffering from dementia in the world today. The causes of dementia are many, with Alzheimer’s disease being the biggest. Between 60 to 70% of all cases of dementia can be attributed to Alzheimer’s. Probably the worst aspect of this syndrome is that there is currently no proven way to reverse its effects, although some interesting studies have been carried out which suggest ways in which its onset can be slowed down.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s basically involves the shrinkage of the brain and this specifically seems to affect the grey matter within the brain which is the area that governs the thought processes. This disease attacks the brain quickly and soon leaves the sufferer in a highly reduced mental state than normal. Studies have shown how the drinking of coffee can help in delaying the onset of the disease but there is still no definitive cure.
Vascular dementia: This form of dementia is brought about when there is an interruption in the blood supply to the brain. When this happens, the brain cells that are essential for thought are shut down and eventually die, leading to brain damage and dementia. This form of dementia is different from that caused by Alzheimer’s disease as it can be traced back to specific ways of life. Those who eat, smoke and drink too much are particularly vulnerable to this form of dementia. People who fail to exercise enough are also prone to this form of dementia. People who suffer strokes, which often involve the interruption of blood flow to the brain, are also likely to suffer this form of dementia as an after-effect. It is clear that as these causes are related to diet and lifestyle that this form of dementia particularly affects those people who live in low-income areas and who are less likely to be aware of the implications that a poor diet and lifestyle may have on their mental health in the future.Frontotemporal dementia: This kind of dementia is usually more prevalent in those aged under sixty-five. It is also one form of dementia that has been shown to have a clear genetic link with 20% of those suffering from this form having inherited the disorder from their parents. The most common symptoms include significant changes in social and personal behaviour, as well as a general blunting of emotions. Currently, there is no cure to FTD, but there are treatment options available that help alleviate the symptoms.
Dementia Across Countries: Surprisingly it is some of the world’s most developed countries which exhibit the highest occurrences of dementia across their population.
Finland tops the chart from the WHO (World Health Organisation) with 34.9 per 100,000 of its population dying from causes related directly to dementia.
The United States figures highly on this chart, too, with 24.8 people per 100,000 of its population being affected.
Less developed countries such as Afghanistan (2.2 per 100,000) and the Philippines (1.4 per 100,000) appear much lower down the table than developed countries but this is more likely to be due to a clear understanding of the problems in these countries rather than significant cultural differences in how dementia works. It is worrying to think how dementia may in fact severely affect less developed countries where special care is more difficult to come by and where the sufferers may simply be left to fend for themselves.
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The article was written by Richard Glover. Richard is a blogger, a marine biologist by trade and he used Gracewell.co.uk as a care home for the elderly dad.