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Six Facts You Should Know About Elderly Dementia

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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While elderly dementia is one of the most prevalent conditions in the UK, there are many misconceptions about diagnoses, treatment and quality of life. However, getting the facts right is crucial to understanding and reducing the risk of developing the illness.

Confused about the wealth of information out there? There's no need to worry because we've cut through the waffle. Keep reading as we share the latest dementia statistics and answer some of your most pressing questions.

How common is dementia?

So, how common is dementia? It's fair to say it's a global health crisis, with millions of people affected worldwide. The National Institute on Ageing estimates about one-third of all elderly people aged 85 or older may have symptoms.

The condition is particularly prevalent in the UK, although promising new research suggests the incidence rate in Europe and North America has fallen by 15% per decade for the past 30 years. Harvard researchers believe this is due to healthy lifestyle changes, better cardiovascular health and a radical decline in smoking rates.

How many people have dementia in the UK? According to the NHS, there are more than 850,000 cases. One in 14 people aged 65 or over has the condition, which rises to one in six people aged 80 or over. However, their forecasting is a little less optimistic than Harvard's. Other dementia risk factors like obesity and diabetes are on the rise, so they predict the number of sufferers to surpass one million by 2025.

Is gender a factor in dementia?

One of the most interesting facts about dementia is that it's more common among women. According to Alzheimer's Research UK, 65% of sufferers are female. This is mostly because women have a longer life expectancy than men, and age is the biggest precursor for dementia.

With that said, researchers are exploring other possible reasons for the sex-based split. One study found a link between the likelihood of developing dementia and oestrogen exposure from a woman's cycle. Early menopause, hysterectomies and shorter reproductive spans were associated with increased symptoms.

On top of this, women tend to make up the majority of carers, and they're 2.3 times more likely to support a loved one for over five years. Sadly, 17% of women have also felt penalised at work because of their personal commitments. If you're feeling the strain, we have plenty of valuable tips on how to help someone with dementia.

Six facts about dementia

Dementia isn’t a disease

Contrary to popular belief, dementia isn't actually a disease in itself. Instead, it describes a collection of symptoms, such as memory loss, confusion and personality changes. There are several illnesses that cause dementia, including:

  • Alzheimer's disease – accounts for 60 to 70% of all dementia cases
  • Vascular dementia – more common as a mixed form of dementia, although 5 to 10% of people have the disease alone
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)one in ten people with dementia has DLB
  • Parkinson's disease – around three quarters of people who have had Parkinson's for over ten years will develop dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia – the most common cause of young-onset dementia (when a person develops dementia before the age of 65)
  • Huntington's disease – a neurodegenerative disorder affecting 6,700 people in the UK
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) – a type of dementia that gets worse unusually fast
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – a disease caused by drinking too much alcohol, which prevents the body from getting enough vitamin B1
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) – one of the few causes of dementia that can be controlled and reversed by treatment

Dementia is more than just memory loss

There's nothing more frustrating than when people assume dementia is purely about forgetfulness. It trivialises the severity of the condition and fails to prepare families for what's to come. Although memory loss is an early sign of dementia, there are countless red flags, such as:

  • Personality changes
  • Confusion and lack of focus
  • Losing track of time and place
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulties completing everyday tasks

Plus, dementia manifests in different ways, depending on the specific condition. Someone with Alzheimer's disease often becomes anxious in unfamiliar environments and asks repetitive questions. People with vascular dementia might experience stroke-like symptoms, including muscle weakness and temporary paralysis.

Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK

One of the scariest dementia statistics is that it's the leading cause of death in the UK – dementia and Alzheimer's disease accounted for 11.8% of all fatalities.

What does this look like on a global scale? According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are the seventh leading cause of death. Ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infections, neonatal conditions and trachea, bronchus and lung cancers are statistically more deadly worldwide.

You can be diagnosed with dementia at any age

It's not only the elderly that suffer from dementia. Young-onset dementia affects people under 65, with most diagnoses made between 30 and 64 years. As you can imagine, it's devastating news for anyone to hear – let alone someone who's in the prime of their life.

How many people have dementia in their younger years? The Alzheimer's Society estimates there are over 42,000 sufferers. People with learning difficulties are disproportionately affected, including those with Down's syndrome. Approximately 50% of people with Down's syndrome develop Alzheimer's dementia in their 60s.

Dementia isn’t an inevitable part of ageing

Following the previous point, dementia isn't an inevitable part of ageing. Many younger people under the age of 65 live with the condition. Plus, there's a difference between age-related forgetfulness and dementia.

Of course, normal ageing impacts the brain and body, but it's rarely disabling. Most people experience no significant problems with memory loss and stay self-sufficient well into their twilight years. In contrast, the diseases that cause dementia destroy the brain. Sometimes, neuron connections break down. Other times, the organ doesn't receive enough blood or oxygen.

In reality, only a tiny proportion of the global elderly population has dementia compared with typical memory loss. Only 5 to 8% of people aged 65 or over will develop the condition. Nevertheless, we suggest speaking to your doctor if you're concerned – they'll provide more guidance about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

You can reduce your risk of dementia

Thankfully, it's not all bad news. Did you know you can reduce your chances of developing some types of dementia through a few simple lifestyle changes? We wouldn't be surprised if you didn't. According to research, only 34% of people realise there are risk factors within our control.

Generally, doctors agree that what's good for your heart is also good for your brain. Some of the preventative measures they suggest include:

  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Monitoring blood pressure

The Mediterranean diet, in particular, is associated with lower dementia risk, and many doctors prescribe it to people with a family history of related diseases. Best of all, there's no need to be ultra-restrictive. Eat an abundance of fruit, vegetables, legumes and cereals. Enjoy oily fish and dairy in moderation. Most importantly, reduce your intake of red meat, sugar and saturated fat.

Key dementia statistics

We know this guide has a lot of information, so we've rounded up some of the key dementia statistics to take away. All figures are correct at the time of writing but are liable to change.

Feel more confident with a SureSafe alarm

If you or an elderly loved one has received a dementia diagnosis, you might feel scared and overwhelmed. Alongside checking out leading charities, such as Dementia UK and the Alzheimer's Society, SureSafe has a library of comprehensive resources to help you understand the disorder. While these dementia statistics might be frightening, we're here to help you every step of the way.

What's more, we can offer you extra peace of mind with our personal alarms. We have a personal pendant to suit every budget and circumstance, each with clever features like GPS tracking, fall detection and SOS buttons.

Dementia doesn't have to impair your quality of life. We want to give you the confidence to live independently. Please get in touch with our friendly team if you have any questions. Call 0800 112 3201, request a call back or chat with us online.

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