It’s commonly accepted that Dementia is a condition that only affects the elderly, however, that’s not always the case. Some may be surprised to learn that the disease can also affect the younger population. Early-onset dementia can start as early as 30 years, while in some, it may begin in their 40s. Fortunately, there are ways you may be able to slow the onset of the disease with early diagnosis and treatment.
Dementia is a set of symptoms that prevent your brain from functioning normally. These symptoms affect your thinking, memory, social functions, as well as daily life.
Dementia isn’t a single specific disease but rather a combination of conditions. Meaning that experiencing memory loss doesn’t necessarily suggest you have Dementia. However, it is always an early sign of the disease.
Risk Factors for Dementia
Risk factors increase the chances of contracting or developing a certain disease or condition. While you can change certain risk factors for Dementia, others may be impossible to control.
Some common risk factors for dementia include:
- Age – The elderly are more likely to develop dementia than younger adults
- Genes – Some genetic factors contribute to certain dementia types
- Down syndrome – Most people with down syndrome start developing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease by the time they are in middle age
Other risk factors that can be controlled by lifestyle changes:
- Untreated depression
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure
- Medication – Some over-the-counter drugs that contain diphenhydramine (Advil PM, Aleve PM) and those used for urinary urgency like oxybutynin (Ditropan XL) can worsen memory loss
- Sleep disturbances – Conditions like sleep apnea increases the risk of developing dementia
- Air pollution – Exposure to air pollution like traffic exhaust increases the risk of developing dementia
What are the Causes of Early-Onset Dementia?
The causes of Dementia for young people and adults are similar. However, some causes are more common in younger people, like frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). The following are causes of early-onset dementia:
- Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a major cause of early-onset dementia, affecting 1 in every 3 young people and about 2 in 3 older people with dementia.
According to experts, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by mutation of genes and can be transferred from parents to their children. Several genes can cause the condition, but apolipoprotein E4 (APOE) is the most important of them all and is believed to increase the disease’s risk drastically.
Alzheimer’s disease occurs when plaques and tangles form in the brain. Plaques result from a buildup of beta-amyloid proteins, while tangles develop due to the accumulation of fibrous tangles consisting of tau proteins. The buildup of these proteins damages neurons and fibres in the brain.
- Vascular Dementia
Vascular Dementia is caused by damage to the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. When these vessels are damaged, blood circulation to the brain is affected, leading to stroke and other cognitive problems. The condition is usually linked to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases like heart disease.
Symptoms of vascular dementia vary, but the most commonly include:
- Slowed thinking
- Issues with problem-solving
- Loss of focus
- Problems with decision making
- Physical symptoms like limb weakness, especially if you develop the disease after stroke
For people with vascular dementia, memory loss is less common compared to the above signs.
- Frontotemporal dementia
This form of Dementia often results from damage to nerve cells in the brain. Unlike other types of Dementia that are likely to develop with age, Frontotemporal Dementia occurs mainly in younger people between 45-65 years of age.
Symptoms of this disease commonly affect personality, language, behaviour, judgment, movement, and thinking.
- Alcohol-related brain damage
Excessive alcohol consumption over several years can cause brain damage. Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) occurs predominantly in men in their 40s and 50s.
Common symptoms of dementia resulting from ARBD include problems with controlling emotions, planning, problem-solving, attention, and changes in personality, among others.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
Lewy bodies are clumps of proteins that are deposited in the brain of people with Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. The condition is more common in older people than young people.
Some common signs and symptoms of Lewy body dementia include hallucinations and problems with alertness. Some people also develop symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as stiffness and slower movement.
Preparing for Dementia
Control what you can. While you cannot change some risk factors like age and family history, you can modify others, such as excessive alcohol use, by making lifestyle changes.
It is essential to make lifestyle changes that improve your mental, coronary, and overall physical health. It’s important to ensure optimal brain health to reduce the risk of dementia. Some changes that can help you avoid or delay developing dementia include:
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet low in saturated fats, sugars, which is associated with developing hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
- Regular exercise including walking, dancing, and cycling.
- Quit smoking which results in constriction of the arteries resulting in hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
- Avoid drinking alcohol excessively
- Maintain a healthy weight as obesity increases the risk of blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
OSAN Can Help You Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Dementia affects people of all ages. With the help of professionals and following the lifestyle changes above, you may be able to reduce your chances of developing dementia. We at OSAN have a range of allied professionals that are ready to assist those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you.