Over 50’s Fitness & Health by Glen Barnett – Dementia

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Dementia is a broad term used to describe a large group of illnesses that cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning, including loss of memory and the ability to reason and learn.

Dementia mostly affects people over the age of 80 years, although it can also affect people in their 40s and 50s. Despite the fact that getting older increases your chances of developing dementia, it’s important to remember that most older people do not get dementia. 

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for between 50%-70% of all cases. This is a degenerative illness that affects the brain, making brain cells shrink or disappear so that certain information cannot be recalled or assimilated. Vascular dementia  is the second most common type of dementia, a broad term used to describe dementia associated with problems of circulation of blood to the brain.

There are also other conditions that may cause or be associated with dementia, including AIDS, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, frontal temporal lobal degeneration, dementia with Lewy bodies, Down syndrome, brain tumours, brain haemorrhages and infections of the brain, exposure to toxins, certain types of head injuries and alcohol related dementia.
About a third of people with Alzheimer’s disease have a close relative who has or has had dementia. However, in most cases dementia occurs when there is no family history.
There are a number of conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia. If you suspect dementia, it’s important to get a medical diagnosis as early as possible to ensure that you or the person you care for receives early access to treatment and support. There are many benefits of early diagnosis, including the ability to delay the progression of dementia and manage symptoms and changes as they occur.

One of the main symptoms of dementia is memory loss. Dementia is different to forgetful – for example, normal forgetfulness may include misplacing the car keys, but a person with dementia may lose the keys and then forget what they’re used for. Another common symptom is behaviour changes.
In the early phase people may display symptoms to us in hindsight.  With a moderate level these same symptoms become more severe, and in advanced dementia, a person may become severely impaired and require total care. (There is too large a list of symptoms to name them all.) It’s important to remember that people with dementia still retain their sense of touch and hearing, as well as their ability to respond to emotion.

At present there is no cure for most types of dementia, but some medications and alternative treatments have been found to relieve a variety of the symptoms for some people, for a period of time.
For more information contact Glen at Coffs Coast Health Club on 66586222 or glen@coffscoasthc.com.au

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