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Monday, 19 September 2016

10 things you didn’t know about dementia



Many people have preconceptions about dementia, and often it is only when someone is personally affected that they begin to find out about it. Be prepared to read some interesting facts

1. Three per cent of UK population will have dementia by 2051


Every three minutes, someone in the UK develops dementia, and one in three of all the babies born last year will develop the condition in the course of their lifetime. More than 850,000 people in the UK are now living with dementia, and the figure is expected to rise to one million people by 2021 and two million by 2051 (out of a total population of 77.4 million). The diseases associated with dementia already cost the UK economy more than £26 billion a year, more than cancer and heart disease combined, but only £90 is spent on dementia research per patient annually.

2.   China, India and Africa will see fastest increase

Worldwide, dementia affects more than 44 million people, but it isn’t restricted to the richer, developed world. In the next 20 years, it is likely that the largest increases in dementia cases will take place in China, India and sub-Saharan Africa, making it a truly global health issue.

3.   Dementia is the umbrella term


Dementia is not a disease in itself but is an umbrella term for a series of diseases with similar symptoms, including memory loss and confusion. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, affecting two-thirds of over-65s with dementia, but there are a range of other such diseases including vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. Dementia can affect anyone regardless of background, education or income, and although lifestyle and genetics play a part, there is currently to certain way to prevent it.


4.   Dementia hits women the hardest

Women are hit disproportionately hard by dementia, both as individuals and carers. In the UK, up to half a million women are already living with the symptoms of dementia and, according to the Office for National Statistics, the condition was the leading cause of death for women in England and Wales in 2014. Women are also more than two and a half times more likely than men to provide intensive, 24-hour care for people with dementia – much of it unpaid. In 2014, dementia-related disease was the second leading cause of death for men.

5.   Dementia affects the young, too


Age is the biggest risk factor in terms of developing dementia, but it is by no means inevitable that everyone will begin to experience symptoms as they age. Although the majority of people with dementia are 65 and over, more than 40,000 people in the UK living with a related disease are younger than this.



6.   It’s not just losing your memory

Memory loss may be a very obvious sign of dementia, but the symptoms can affect individuals in a variety of ways. Confusion and disorientation, as well as difficulties in communicating, can progress over time; for some families, accompanying personality changes, mood swings and even aggression may be the hardest symptoms to cope with.

7.   There are things you can do

Living an independent life with a dementia diagnosis can be a reality, particularly if professional and personal support is available close by. Many people in the UK and worldwide opt to live in their own home for as long as possible – either alone or with the help of family members or other carers – and by taking up hobbies, making friends or becoming actively involved in Alzheimer’s research studies, for example, it is possible to have a fulfilling and active life despite dementia.

8.   Drugs can help symptoms

A cure for dementia may still be a long way off, although scientific progress is being made all the time. There are drugs already available – including Aricept, now widely available as generic donepezil – which can help people with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but while these can help alleviate some symptoms in some individuals, they cannot stop the gradual deterioration of brain function.

9.   Dementia research is underfunded

 
Alzheimer’s Research UK estimates that dementia receives only three per cent of the government’s medical research budget and, when added together with charitable investment, is seven times lower than that for cancer research. Despite the UK government’s welcome focus on dementia research since the hosting of the G8 Summit in 2013, urgent investment is required if a cure or treatment for the symptoms of dementia is to be found in the near or medium term.

10.  Dementia research needs you

By volunteering to take part in ongoing desk-based or clinical research, you can make an important contribution to fighting devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Whether you are already caring for somebody with dementia, or simply wish to give time and support to the most challenging health issue of the age, there are opportunities to play a direct role in scientific efforts. A new programme – “Join Dementia Research” – has been launched for anyone wishing to join studies in their area to register their interest.



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