Dementia can be a debilitating condition, taking away the autonomy of sufferers through a steady and gradual deterioration of their cognitive abilities. This can manifest in numerous ways, such as impairment to memory, language capability, behaviour and even judgments they make.

The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, or a mix of the two, but rarer types also exist.

Over 65s are most likely to develop dementia, and this risk increases with age, however there are younger sufferers too.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease remain the leading cause of death in England in women and the third leading cause of death in men.

According to NHS data, around 850,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia. This causes a huge burden on the individual, the family and on society as a whole. With an aging population and an ever increasing lifespan, we can expect to see the prevalence of dementia increase significantly in the years to come.

Symptoms of dementia

Symptoms such as loss of recent memories (e.g. “why did I come upstairs again?” , communication difficulties and frequent use of wrong words, loss of interest, mood swings and difficulty in planning and carrying out daily tasks, can be warning signs. Initially the symptoms can be barely noticeable but often progress with time. Often it will be family members and friends that are the first to spot these changes.

Treatments of dementia

In most situations, dementia is not treatable or reversible, but there is already a range of effective drugs for Alzheimer’s capable of enhancing cognitive functions and reducing unwanted behavioral changes. These have also been shown to slow down progression of the disease. Vascular dementia requires an improvement in risk factors for stroke, diabetes and hypertension to prevent it from worsening.

Studies have strongly suggested that exercise, specifically aerobic exercise, can attenuate cognitive impairment and reduce the risk of dementia. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet, remaining social and keeping the brain active can delay the onset of most types of dementia.

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