Dementia is increasing worldwide. Experts expect the number of cases to increase significantly over the next few decades. How to recognize the first signs of dementia, what forms there are and what the causes are.
Bremen – It is a development that not only concerns experts: dementia is on the rise. According to a study published in the journal The Lancet Public Health, the number of cases of dementia worldwide is expected to triple. Also in Deutschland there are more and more people with dementia – also among younger people. The German Alzheimer Society recently reported this. The demographic development is likely to cause the numbers to continue to rise over the next three decades – which, however, is also due to better diagnostics. But what exactly characterizes dementia? And what are the first signs of the disease?
Symptoms of Dementia: How to Recognize the Early Signs
There are a number of signs that point to the diagnosis of dementia right from the start. At this point, however, it is particularly important to differentiate the symptoms from other neurological diseases such as depression, as they sometimes cause similar symptoms and impairments. A dementia (from Latin demens “without mind”) is according to the German Federal Association for Psychiatry and Neurology a “disease-related, acquired loss of performance of the higher brain functions”. As a result, cognitive abilities are gradually lost. It is becoming increasingly difficult for those affected to recognize familiar people and places, as well as orienting themselves, language skills, planned thinking and emotional and social skills.
Personality changes and sudden mood swings are common early in the disease. The distinction from other diseases is particularly important here, because depression, for example, can also express itself in a similar way. Here there is a risk of confusing the symptoms of the disease with one another. In all cases, however, if you notice mood changes or cognitive impairments in yourself or others, it is particularly important to see a doctor. Because such symptoms require a thorough medical examination and must be treated accordingly if necessary.
At the beginning of dementia, the symptoms are still mild and not permanent
At the beginning, i.e. in the early stages of the disease, the first mild symptoms appear, which can indicate dementia. They are also mostly temporary, so they are often overlooked. This includes:
- time orientation is becoming increasingly difficult, one often “gets bogged down” and forgets what time it is
- one can no longer orientate oneself in familiar places and often gets lost
- (Those: World Health Organization WHO)
Symptoms of dementia and changes in behavior often creep in early and are therefore only associated with the disease in hindsight. As the disease progresses, however, the symptoms worsen and become more obvious. The patient then forgets recent events, encounters or conversations. They don’t remember names or get lost in their own homes. Communicating is becoming increasingly difficult for them and they often need help to take care of themselves. Behavior then changes in a much more noticeable way. Those affected often wander aimlessly or repeatedly ask the same questions.
What is dementia and how does it develop?
In the beginning, short-term memory and retention are often impaired. In the further course, the contents of the long-term memory, which are imprinted much more deeply, also disappear. As a result, sufferers lose more and more of the skills they have acquired over the course of their lives. The majority of dementia diseases are currently not curable. Therefore, the therapy of such an “irreversible” dementia mainly aims to improve the quality of life of those affected and their relatives as much as possible.
In the very advanced stage of the disease, the abilities of the sufferers are so limited that they are basically completely dependent on others. Even friends and relatives no longer recognize them and their sense of time and place is completely lost. They then often behave aggressively towards others and are also severely restricted in their movement.
Dementia can have various causes, Alzheimer’s being the most common at 60 to 65 percent
Dementia symptoms depend on the type of disease. Because there are different forms of dementia, each of which has a different cause. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease. It accounts for 60 to 65 percent of all dementia diseases. This makes it the most common primary form of dementia.
Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia. It increases steadily from the age of 65. One in five people over the age of 85 is affected. In extremely rare cases, it can also occur in people under the age of 65, in which case it is a presenile form of Alzheimer’s. A cure is currently not possible. However, the progression of the disease can at least be stopped with medication.
Signs and symptoms of dementia: Calcification of the blood vessels can also lead to dementia
Dementia occurs relatively frequently, with a proportion of around ten to 15 percent, because the blood vessels due to calcification are damaged. In the long term, this leads to circulatory disorders in the brain, which then cause the dementia symptoms. This is vascular dementia. Especially people who are under Diabetes or high blood pressure suffer are particularly at risk. Therefore, these underlying diseases must always be treated consistently and the lifestyle be adjusted accordingly.
Diabetes and high blood pressure patients in particular have an increased risk of dementia
Mixed forms of vascular and Alzheimer’s dementia occur in about 20 percent of cases. Other forms of dementia are less common, for example dementia with Lewy bodies, in which, in addition to the deposits typical of dementia, other deposits form in the nerve cells of the cerebral cortex, the so-called Lewy bodies. They are also characteristic of Parkinson’s disease.
The so-called fronto-temporal dementia is less common than Alzheimer’s disease with five percent of cases. It is caused by a shrinkage of the frontal lobe in the brain. What is striking here is that younger people around the age of 50 are more likely to be affected. The typical signs are changes in character and difficult processing of emotions. Sometimes there can also be a gradual loss of speech.
Some dementia diseases are reversible if the underlying disease is treated
However, a smaller proportion of dementia diseases, around ten percent, can be treated because they are a consequence of other underlying diseases. These are the so-called secondary forms of dementia. These include the Federal Ministry of Health according to metabolic diseases, vitamin deficiencies or chronic symptoms of intoxication caused by alcohol or medication. If these underlying diseases are treated appropriately, the symptoms of dementia also recede, so the disease is “reversible” in these cases.
What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Dementia (from the Latin demens = “without mind”, “away from the mind”) is the umbrella term for neuronal diseases that usually result in the loss or drastic deterioration of several mental abilities. It can be caused by various diseases that damage the brain. It is often caused by circulatory disorders in the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the causes of dementia. At around 60 percent, it is the most common. During the disease, nerve cells die and the connection between them is destroyed. Not much is known about the exact causes of the disease. There is a decrease in brain mass and protein deposits in the brain, so-called plaques. Genetic factors play only a minor role in its development.
Anyone who knows the causes and risk factors for dementia can prevent it in a targeted manner
Even if dementia cannot be prevented in most cases, the onset of symptoms can at least be postponed. To do this, you not only have to know the risk factors, but above all avoid them. But you can also do a lot more actively to stay symptom-free for as long as possible. A research team from Finland has determined that the personal Lifestyle has a major impact on the onset of dementia hat.
First of all, an unhealthy diet with many ready mealsrefined Zucker, Alcohol and the wrong fats have an unfavorable effect. People who frequently eat industrially processed foods and baked goods are more likely to develop dementia. Even those who exercise little have a greater risk of losing their mental abilities. An active lifestyle with regular exercise and a Mediterranean-inspired diet can prevent dementia.
This can also increase the risk of many other diseases such as stroke, Diabetes, Heart attack or Krebs reduce, because studies have shown that only a small consumption of Sugar and meat the key to a long life is. Mental activity, education and maintaining social contacts also protect against dementia – and are also fun.