Just The Facts: Dementia

 In Fuse blogs

With 850,000 suffers, predicted to become a million by 2025, dementia is the fastest growing old-age condition in the UK.

However, a study by Alzheimer’s Research UK, entitled Dementia Attitudes Monitor, found some shocking gaps in adult population’s knowledge about the risks of dementia. Of those surveyed, only half knew dementia was able to cause death. 34% thought that there was no way to reduce the risk of dementia in old age. 20% incorrectly believed that dementia was an inevitable part of aging, and only 1% could name the six known risk factors that contribute to the condition.

With the UK’s aging population living for much longer when compared to previous generations, people can no longer afford to ignore the effects of age-related illnesses. In this blog, we’ll break down the risks and symptoms associated with dementia as well as how to prevent and manage the condition, but first, lets explain what dementia actually is.

What is Dementia?

According to Alzheimer’s Society:

“The word ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life.

Dementia generally begins to occur when a sufferer’s brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for two-thirds of all cases. Suffering multiple strokes can also increase the risk of developing the condition.

It is also used as an umbrella term for the types of progressive conditions that affect the brain. Of the over 200 subtypes, the five most common are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia. These subtypes often display similar symptoms, which we’ll discuss later in the blog.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Dementia can affect anybody, no matter their gender, wealth or location. However, because it doesn’t affect everyone, it has been difficult for experts to pin down what exactly causes the condition. In an attempt to understand the causes, many doctors and charities have identified six major risk factors covering possible causes both genetic and lifestyle based:

  • Heavy Drinking: Alcohol misuse over several years can cause changes in how the brain regenerates. Neurons and white matter regenerate at a slower rate effecting how signals are transmitted around the brain. This slows it down and causes damage linked to dementia.
  • Genetics: If your family has a history of dementia, then the risk factor may be slightly higher, otherwise the genes we inherit only have a very small effect. However, some rarer forms of Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia can be caused by faulty genes.
  • Smoking: The problems caused by smoking to the body’s vascular system have been linked to many conditions including strokes and brain bleeds. The damage caused by this increase your chances of developing dementia.
  • High Blood Pressure: Often caused by poor lifestyle choices, including heavy drinking and smoking, high blood pressure is considered a key factor in a middle-aged person’s chances of developing dementia.
  • Depression: This is a common early side-effect of dementia. Suffering from the illness beforehand can make dealing with dementia much more difficult and worsen other mental health symptoms brought on by it.
  • Diabetes: Though there is still a lot of research to be done, it is thought that there may be a link between high glucose levels and Alzheimer’s disease. With more and more people suffering type 2 diabetes, this is a risk to look out for.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms can vary depending on the subtype of dementia developed, though they do share very similar symptoms early on before becoming severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. These include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Finding it hard to carry out simple cognitive tasks
  • Struggling to follow conversations and articulate
  • Being confused about the current time or where you are
  • Mood swings and personality changes

When these symptoms develop into dementia, their severity can vary depending on the subtype. While developing Alzheimer’s disease generally makes all the above symptoms worse, subtypes like vascular dementia can cause extra physical symptoms to develop and frontotemporal dementia can even alter a sufferer’s personality completely.

Late-stage symptoms are also useful to know, as this is often the point at which a suffer will need constant care or will soon pass away. These include:

  • Whole of memory problems
  • Communication problems and loss of voice
  • Mobility problems
  • Behavioural problems
  • Bladder and bowel incontinence
  • Appetite and weight loss

What Can Be Done to Prevent or Manage Dementia?

Unfortunately, there is no cure or effective treatment for dementia yet. For those who want to decrease their chances of developing dementia or want help managing it, there is only one solution currently available: exercise and healthy living.

Now we talked a lot about the benefits of both back in our January blog series, but they can provide so much more than an improved lifestyle. Exercise keeps the blood flowing around the body, giving oxygen to both the muscles and organs while also keeping the brain active and aware. This decreases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes while improving bone density, cognitive abilities, sleep, confidence and self-esteem.

Is There Any Chance of a Cure or Treatment Being Developed?

This is a tricky question to answer. While the Dementia Attitudes Monitor found that 27% of those surveyed were in favour of using research to find a cure and 26% were in favour of researching prevention, few were so forthcoming when asked if they would be willing to help themselves.

Only half of those surveyed said they’d willing get involved in medical research, with the least willing age group being those 65 and above, despite their increased risk. Other negative attitudes towards dementia are also halting progress, Alzhiemer’s Research UK saying:

“Our findings show that those who believe dementia is an inevitable part of ageing [20% of those surveyed] are less likely to see the value in seeking a formal diagnosis, and are less likely to engage with research developments that could bring about life-changing treatments and ultimately, a cure.”

If attitudes like this cannot be changed, then a cure or effective treatment will continue to remain a pipe dream.

Like anybody else, we at Fuse Assurance would love to see dementia research advance in the future. For now though, all we can do is offer a safety net for those who want to ensure their loved ones’ futures, by providing Over 50s Cover for those at risk or already suffering the signs of this terrible condition.

What Is Over 50s Cover?

Over 50s Cover, or Whole of Life Insurance, is available to those between the ages of 50 and 80, with a lump-sum being paid out to your loved ones once you pass away. With the policies available through us, you’re guaranteed to be accepted with no medical questions and your premiums will never increase, even if you live to be 90 or older. So don’t go forgetting about us and click the button below for your free, no obligation quote today.

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