Believe it or not, there are 400 types of dementia, so it’s very easy to believe that you suffer from at least one!
We all mutter to ourselves about Alzheimer’s as we lose the keys of the car for the third time in a week (or even in a day!). It’s fair to say that along with cancer, it’s everyone’s greatest health fear.
As we are living longer, the proportion of people living with dementia will double over the next 20 years, so it’s a good thing to become informed about the What, Why and How do we know if we or someone we know has dementia?
OF THE 400 TYPES, THE MOST COMMON ARE:
1.Alzheimer’s: (60% of cases). This occurs when changes develop in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus. The hippocampus acts as the conductor of memories in the brain as memory is a function of many different parts of the brain, a bit like an orchestra (and this is why we never lose all of our memory. Just because we are missing a few instruments doesn’t mean that we can’t bash out a tune.
2.Vascular Dementia: This occurs when due to blockages in the blood vessels; certain areas of the brain will be starved of oxygen and cease to function properly. This may happen after a stroke. With vascular dementia, emotional personality changes may occur before memory loss.
3.Lewy Body Disease: Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of protein that develop in the brain causing problems with movement, behaviour, hallucinations and changes in sleep pattern.
4.Fronto-Temporal Dementia: The age of onset for this type of dementia is 44-66 years of age. The frontal and temporal lobes of the brain start to shrink, causing notable changes in behaviour, a lack of personal awareness with respect to hygiene and social interactions (rudeness and tactlessness) and speech difficulties.
As mentioned, we all think we are, several times a day. But losing our car keys forgetting someone’s name or our dental appointment is all normal especially at the pace we live life nowadays. There’s a lot going on.
A lot of this can be remedied by taking a deep breath and practising a little mindfulness (NOT VERY EASY BUT VERY EFFECTIVE!)
On the other hand, getting confused about where you are, or what to do in a situation that should be familiar to you, or what day of the week it is may be a sign that something is not quite right.
You can also ask a family member, friend or work colleague if they have noticed anything amiss because sometimes it is all in your head.
But also remember, that these symptoms can be caused by lots of other things such as depression, anxiety, menopause, thyroid problems, infections and even by medications that you are taking, in which case, the problem is more easily resolved. Many people will feel strange or shy about going to their doctor to talk about these matters, so here are a few contacts and sources of information that could be useful.
The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland Phone: 1800 341 341 or online The HSE has some great sources of easy to follow information below:
About Dementia-HSE.ie (www.HSE.ie)
In the meantime, is there anything we can do to help or prevent the onset of dementia?
1.So far, there is no known cure, but there are several medications that can be prescribed by your doctor to help, so if you are bothered, the sooner the better.
2.Scientists now know that keeping your body healthy keeps your brain healthy. Even the bacteria in your gut have a part to play. So try to avoid having high cholesterol and keep that blood pressure down to avoid damage being done to the blood vessels in the brain.
Fat, especially belly fat, produces chemicals that cause inflammation in various parts of the body including the brain.
Diabetes is also thought to be a risk factor, so try to keep those sugar levels down.
Perhaps aim for what they call the MIND diet, it’s ever too early to start!
The Mind Diet
Leafy Green Vegetables- 6 servings per week
Other Vegetables- 3 servings per week
Berries- 2 servings per week
Whole Grains- 3 servings per week
Fish- at least 1-2 servings per week
Poultry- 2 servings per week
Beans- 3 servings per week
Nuts (Not Salted)- 5 servings per week
Olive oil (Virgin Olive Oil) to dress salads or instead of butter on bread
Limit: Red meat, sweets, cheese, butter, fried food
3.Exercise: Try for 30 minutes at least five times a week, or whatever you can. Even just a few minutes at a time is a big help. It has now been discovered that exercise stimulates the production of B.D.N.F (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). Basically, it’s fertilizer for the brain.
And don’t forget to exercise your brain as well. People challenge their bodies to maintain physical fitness and challenging your mind will maintain mental fitness.
Learn something new: Dancing, juggling, flower arranging, card games, anything that you enjoy.
4.Get your Team Together: If you, a member of your family or a friend has dementia, the best plan of action is to let those around you know. This is not something to face alone. If you had two broken legs, you would ask for help crossing the road, it is the sensible thing to do. So, asking for help and understanding in this case is also the most sensible thing to do. Let those around you know what you may need help with and ask them to give you time to get your thoughts together.
The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland can give you all the advice you need in how to live with dementia.