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Dementia Facts: Dispelling The Myths

April 6, 2023Neelem Sheikh

Dementia is a general term that refers to a decline in cognitive abilities that is significant enough to interfere with a person’s ability to complete basic day-to-day activities (Activities of Daily Living).

Taking the time to learn a few dementia facts can help you better understand and care for your brain health, all while contributing to global efforts to raise awareness, erode the stigma, and dispel myths about dementia.

Dementia Facts: Statistics and Projections

  • An estimated 55 million people are living with dementia worldwide. By 2050, this number is projected to grow to 153 million.
  • In 2022, Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia cost the nation $321 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments combined. By 2050, these costs could reach nearly $1 trillion.
  • Nearly 80% of the general public is concerned about developing dementia, and roughly one in four people think there is nothing that can be done to prevent it.
  • Experts estimate that 12 potentially modifiable risk factors account for 40% of dementia cases worldwide. This means that up to 40% of dementia cases could potentially be prevented or delayed.
  • Fewer than one in five Americans are familiar with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is sometimes an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • 90% of physicians believe that it is important to diagnose MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease, but more than half state that they are not fully comfortable diagnosing it.
  • 96% of physicians say that it is important to assess patients aged 60 and older for cognitive impairment, yet cognitive assessments are conducted for only half of their patients.

Dispelling the Myths about Dementia

Dementia Myth: Dementia is a disease.

Dementia Fact: Dementia is not a disease but rather is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning, thinking, or other cognitive functions severe enough to interfere with daily living. There are several causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and mixed dementia, among others. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for approximately 60-80% of all dementia cases.

Dementia Myth: Dementia only affects older individuals.

Dementia Fact: Although the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia is advancing age, dementia can also affect younger individuals. Take Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, for example. While most people living with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 and older (late-onset), 5% to 6% of those with Alzheimer’s are younger than 65 (early-onset). Similarly, approximately 10% to 20% of people with Parkinson’s disease experience symptoms before age 50.

Dementia Myth: Memory loss and dementia are normal parts of aging.

Dementia Fact: While some minor changes to brain structure and function are likely to occur as you age, memory loss and dementia are not normal parts of aging. For example, taking slightly longer to learn new things and occasionally forgetting to pay a bill can be normal parts of aging. On the other hand, struggling to follow instructions, misplacing things often, and repeatedly asking the same question are not normal parts of aging.

Dementia Myth: If a close family member of an individual is living with dementia, that individual will eventually develop dementia.

Dementia Fact: Although some causes of dementia are directly related to genetics, such as familial Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, most cases of dementia do not have direct genetic links. Many causes of dementia are multifactorial, meaning they are caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. For example, only 1% (or less) of Alzheimer’s disease cases are believed to be caused by genetics.

Dementia Myth: Memory loss and other changes in cognitive abilities are always a sign of dementia.

Dementia Fact: Although memory loss and other changes in thinking abilities are core symptoms of dementia, such changes are not always indicative of dementia. Several medical conditions, such as those listed below, can cause changes in memory and thinking—many of which may be reversible with proper treatment:

  • Head injury
  • Some thyroid, liver, and kidney disorders
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Blood or infections in the brain

Altoida’s mission is to accelerate and improve drug development, neurological disease research, and patient care. To learn more about our precision neurology platform and app-based medical device, contact us today.

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