Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an umbrella term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
There are more than 100 different causes of dementia. The most common are Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Fronto temporal lobar degeneration.
However there are many other conditions that can cause dementia symptoms, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
The statistics are staggering:
- Dementia is the third leading cause of death in Australia.
- It is the single greatest cause of disability in Australians over the age of 65 years.
- There are more than 330,000 people in Australia with dementia. Approximately 60% are women, about 75% are 75 or older.
- It’s estimated that there will be about 400,000 people with dementia by 2020 and about 900,000 by 2050.
- Younger onset dementia (people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s) currently affects approximately 24,500 Australians.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging. So what can we do to help prevent dementia?
- Look after your heart: Your chances of developing dementia seem to increase if you have problems that affect your heart or blood vessels.
- Do some type of regular physical activity: There is strong evidence that people who do regular physical activity have healthier brains and a lower risk.
- Mentally challenge your brain: Learning builds new brain cells, strengthens connections between them, and gives your brain more ‘back up’ power. So, take up a new language or a new sport, and mentally challenge yourself as much as possible.
- Follow a healthy diet: Feed your brain well by maintaining a healthy diet.
- Stay socially active: Socialise with people whose company you enjoy. If possible, try some activities that involve both mental and physical activity such as dancing or a team sport.