What is dementia?
Dementia is a set of symptoms which affects thinking, behaviour, and the ability to perform everyday tasks. It occurs as a result of physical changes in the structure of the brain and is progressive, meaning that symptoms will gradually worsen over time. Dementia is not contagious – nor is it something to be ashamed of.
One of the most important factors to note about dementia is that it is not a normal part of the aging process. So what do we know about dementia?
Not just Alzheimer’s
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, but other kinds include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia. However, there are more than one hundred types of dementia, and each person with dementia will experience life in a slightly different way. Find out more about the different types of dementia.
While there has been extensive research into the causes of dementia, there is no single cause or factor attributed to an individual being diagnosed. Instead, it is more likely that a combination of age, genetics, lifestyle and environment lead to dementia.
All ages affected
People of all ages, ethnicities, genders and intellectual abilities can develop dementia. Dementia is most common in people over the age of 65, but about one person in every thousand below the age of 65 develop dementia. This is known as younger or early onset dementia.
By the numbers
It is estimated that there are more than 15,000 people living with dementia in the Auckland region. For each of these individuals, there are a number of others around them who are also affected by the changes that dementia brings to their lives – from their family, whanau, and friends, to work colleagues and their community.
Support for the individual and their carers can make the most positive difference when it comes to managing the affects of dementia.
While is currently no cure or preventative treatment for dementia, there is a lot of research being done around how you may be able to reduce your risk of dementia by keeping your brain healthy. A healthy brain requires the following lifestyle factors:
· Regular exercise – even a 20 to 30 minute walk daily can make a positive difference
· Eating a healthy diet
· Exercising your brain through reading, playing memory games and doing word puzzles
· Enjoying laughter, living positively and reducing stress
· Social involvement with friends, family and community
· Regular medical checks
· Limit alcohol consumption and avoid smoking