Dementia is a condition marked by a decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning abilities, which eventually makes it difficult for individuals to carry out everyday tasks.
Currently, over 55 million people worldwide are living with dementia, and this number is predicted to rise to approximately 153 million by the year 2050, as per the World Health Organization. With the prevalence of dementia increasing, it is important for individuals to adopt measures that can help lower the risk of developing the condition. These measures include engaging in regular physical activity, making healthier lifestyle choices, and maintaining social connections.
Is it possible to prevent dementia?
While dementia cannot be entirely prevented, there are steps one can take to reduce the likelihood of developing the condition.
- Engaging in regular physical activity throughout life.
- Managing blood pressure and diabetes effectively.
- Giving up smoking.
- Reducing obesity.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Minimizing exposure to air pollution.
- Remaining socially active.
Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms, including impaired memory, thinking, and reasoning, which gradually make it difficult for individuals to perform daily tasks. These symptoms are indicative of several progressive brain disorders, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common one.
People lose skills in cognition that they previously had, like memory, judgment, and spatial awareness.The impairment needs to be severe enough to affect everyday activities such as managing finances, shopping, cooking to a previous standard, or social functioning.
The underlying cause of dementia symptoms is the loss of connections between brain neurons, or nerve cells, which eventually leads to the death of these cells, according to the National Institute on Aging. While everyone experiences neuron loss over time, the loss is more pronounced in individuals with dementia.
The likelihood of developing dementia increases significantly after the age of 65, but it is not an unavoidable consequence of aging.
What are the signs and symptoms of dementia? As we age, recalling or retrieving information may require more effort and time, and we might need a hint or cue. However, it’s not normal to be unable to recall a memory that has been learned well, even when cues are provided to help retrieve it. This often results in individuals repeatedly asking the same questions or telling the same stories to the same people.
The changes in abilities and personality associated with dementia usually occur subtly and often go unnoticed by the person with dementia, although those around them are very aware. It’s important to note that dementia is different from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is an early stage of memory and cognitive loss that usually doesn’t impact a person’s daily activities significantly.
While some individuals with MCI do progress to full-blown dementia, a large percentage do not, according to Schulz. A person may show impairment in one area, but it may not affect their daily activities. For example, someone may experience short-term memory loss but still be able to go to work. About a quarter of these individuals eventually return to normal functioning.
If you or your family members have concerns about dementia, it’s important to see a doctor. There are also more comprehensive memory tests and diagnostics — several hours of intensive cognitive testing — that can be performed by neurologists.
Brain scans and other tests, such as blood and spinal fluid tests, can identify noticeable changes in the brain and detect specific substances associated with dementia. However, these tests can be misleading. Some people may have brain scans that look concerning, but show no external signs of dementia, while others may have seemingly normal brain scans but exhibit clear signs of dementia. These tests are helpful, but they are not definitive.
Risk Factors for Dementia
Brain proteins and inflammation:
In Alzheimer’s disease, which represents up to 80% of dementia cases, abnormal amounts of naturally occurring proteins — amyloid plaques and tau — accumulate in the brain, clumping together and disrupting cell function. Neurons lose their connections with each other, impairing their ability to send messages to other parts of the brain. However, brain inflammation must also be present for Alzheimer’s disease to occur. Researchers are exploring the role of other factors as well.
The risk of developing dementia increases with age, especially after 65. For Alzheimer’s, the risk doubles every five years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and nearly one-third of people over 85 are at risk.
Individuals with a first-degree relative — a parent or sibling — with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease. The risk increases when multiple family members are affected.
Genetics: Scientists have identified approximately 30 gene variants linked to dementia, each with about a 1% risk. Genes such as APOE-e4 and mutations in the amyloid protein precursor (APP), presenilin-1 (PSEN1), and presenilin-2 (PSEN2) increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Environmental factors: Emerging evidence suggests that exposure to air pollution is a significant contributor. Some research has also focused on toxic metals, pesticides, and vitamin D deficiency. Traumatic brain injuries: These injuries can result from falls (older individuals are particularly vulnerable), being struck by an object, and car crashes.
Studies suggest that experiencing a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may increase the likelihood of developing dementia. This includes collision sports, which have been linked to the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, especially among football players. Stroke: Having one or multiple strokes or any other type of bleeding that disrupts blood flow to the brain can result in vascular dementia.
Hearing loss and social isolation:
Some experts believe that hearing loss increases the risk of dementia because it leads to social isolation, and that wearing hearing aids may eliminate the risk. However, we really don’t know which comes first, whether hearing loss leads to dementia or dementia leads to hearing loss.
Many individuals with Down syndrome will develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease by middle age. Autopsies have revealed that by age 40, the brains of almost all people with Down syndrome have high levels of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers are also studying genetic factors, specifically the influence of the amyloid protein precursor.
Discover the Voise Foundation’s Pioneering Dementia Care Programs
Voise Foundation, a start-up organization, is actively making a positive difference in the lives of individuals living with dementia. This non-profit foundation offers various programs and initiatives aimed at enhancing the lives of those with dementia and their caregivers. These programs include music therapy, art therapy, financial aid, education, advocacy, and more.
Become a Part of the Voise Foundation’s Journey
Joining the Voise Foundation means becoming an essential part of the VF Dementia Hope Circle. This membership allows you to contribute to illuminating paths of hope and compassion for those affected by dementia. Stay closely connected with their groundbreaking programs and see their unwavering commitment to the dementia community firsthand. By joining Voise Foundation, you embark on a transformative journey, where we collectively redefine the future of dementia care.
Your Support is Changing Lives at the Voise Foundation
Music, movement, and art enhance cognitive function. Music therapy reduces anxiety and depression by 50%. Art therapy improves social interaction by 70%. They strive to alleviate financial stress in dementia healthcare. Voise Foundation aims to provide security in the dementia journey. Your donations support these impactful programs.
Innovating Dementia Care: Voise Foundation’s Pioneering Programs
The Voise Foundation stands out as a leader in dementia care and support. The charity has developed a series of groundbreaking programs to provide comprehensive care for those living with dementia.
Artful Minds: Moving beyond traditional art programs, the Voise Foundation has integrated art sensory videos into its therapeutic approach. Artful Minds offers a multisensory experience, allowing individuals with dementia to engage with art in a unique, immersive way. These videos stimulate cognitive processes, helping to soothe anxiety, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being.
VST Music: Recognizing the powerful impact of music on the human mind, the Voise Foundation introduced VST Music, a science-based music program. This music is crafted using solfeggios and frequencies in the 40hz range, which research suggests can benefit the brain, especially for those with dementia. This approach provides comfort, recall of cherished memories, and potential therapeutic benefits on a neural level.
Movement and Dance: Although the Voise Foundation has yet to formally launch a dedicated movement and dance program, they highly encourage this activity. Movement is crucial for overall well-being, and dancing can serve as an excellent medium for physical activity, emotional expression, and cognitive stimulation. This future program promises to bring more joy and health benefits to its participants. DementiaGuard: Set to be the flagship offering, the DementiaGuard program is currently under development. Recognizing the financial burden dementia can place on families, this program aims to assist with dementia-related medical expenses and insurance premiums. By alleviating some of the financial stress, this dementia charity ensures that every individual receives the best possible care without the worry of costs. In summary, the Voise Foundation’s commitment to integrating science, art, and practical financial assistance positions it at the forefront of dementia care. With its innovative approaches and steadfast dedication, this dementia charity is making a significant difference in the lives of many.