While many older people can expect to experience a slight, gradual decline in cognitive function, speed, or abilities as they age, certain mental health conditions can cause more rapid changes that are significant enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia refers to a category of such conditions. Read on to learn more about it and to familiarize yourself with key statistics about the prevalence of dementia worldwide.
What Is Dementia?
Different types of dementia may affect different areas of the brain, which is why symptoms can vary. However, in general, common effects of dementia include:
- Memory loss
- Trouble with complex decision making
- Language problems
- Difficulty with reasoning and judgment
- A shortened attention span
Types Of Dementia
The National Institute on Aging identifies three most common forms of dementia, along with a few lesser-known manifestations. Here’s a brief overview of these main types.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
If the typical fuzzy memory associated with aging progresses to the point where it’s persistent and begins to affect your daily life, you may have a mild cognitive impairment (MCI). In this case, it’s typically best to speak to your doctor to ask about testing and, if necessary, an early intervention treatment plan since MCIs may progress to more severe forms of dementia in some cases.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that does not presently have a cure, and it often begins with an MCI. This condition usually targets the parts of the brain associated with language, memory, and thought.
Vascular dementia is the second-leading cause of cognitive impairment worldwide, according to a recent study. People living with vascular dementia may experience progressive symptoms—such as difficulty concentrating, confusion and agitation, and night wandering—as blood, nutrients, and oxygen flow to the brain is reduced due to a hardening of the veins.
Other Forms Of Dementia
Less common forms of dementia include:
- Lewy body dementia, which is caused by abnormal clumps of proteins in the brain. Lewy bodies is typically characterized by symptoms like acting out dreams during sleep, visual hallucinations, difficulty focusing, tremors, and uncoordinated movement.
- Frontotemporal dementia is caused by a breakdown of the connections between nerve cells and the frontal and temporal lobes, which are typically related to behavior, language, and personality.
- Mixed dementia refers to when an individual experiences a combination of dementia causes and symptoms.
Risk Factors For Dementia
A person living with certain risk factors may be more likely to develop some form of dementia. Key risk factors include:
- Age (as dementia primarily affects older people)
- Genetics/a family history of dementia
- Excessive alcohol use
- An existing mild cognitive impairment
- The presence of other medical conditions, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, leukoencephalopathies, or a late-stage syphilis infection
To evaluate an individual for dementia, a primary care physician will typically take a thorough medical history and overall health evaluation in order to eliminate other potential causes of symptoms such as genetic conditions or medication interactions. The process may also include blood tests, brain scans, or other diagnostic methods and medical care to determine the cause of symptoms.
Key Statistics About Dementia
Understanding statistics about diseases that fall under the category of dementia can help raise awareness about its risk factors, prevention, and resources. Here are some noteworthy dementia statistics and data.
- According to the 2020 US Census, 11.3% of the population has an MCI or Alzheimer’s disease. This percentage is expected to increase to 13.85% by 2060.
- Approximately one-third of the people diagnosed with an MCI due to Alzheimer’s are likely to develop dementia within five years.
- According to a survey, 82% of Americans are unfamiliar with what a mild cognitive impairment is, and more than half thought the symptoms sounded like “normal aging”.
- Women have a 37% chance of developing dementia during their lifetime, while men have a 24% chance.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the total estimated societal cost of dementia in 2019 was $1.3 trillion, and the total economic impact is expected to exceed $2.8 trillion by 2030.
- According to a survey, 42% of Americans worry about developing dementia.
- Globally, approximately there are 55 million people living with dementia. 60% of people with dementia live in low- and middle-income countries, and 73% are aged 75 or older. Worldwide, the number of dementia patients is projected to grow to 139 million by 2050.
- While young onset dementia is possible, per the American Academy of Neurology, MCIs and dementia become more prevalent with age. Recent research shows the following incidences of MCIs and dementia by age group:
- 65 to 69: 8%
- 75 to 79: 15%
- 80 to 84: 25%
- 85 and older: 37%
Strategies For Preventing Dementia
While virtually every individual’s brain and well being will change as they age, dementia isn’t necessarily an inevitable part of this process according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They report that up to 40% of dementia cases could potentially be prevented or delayed. Current research suggests that keeping your brain limber with regular mental and intellectual stimulation can help prevent or delay many dementia symptoms, positively affect memory, and reduce the incidence and risk of cognitive decline overall.
Other common lifestyle changes recommended for preserving brain health include maintaining a healthy blood pressure, getting regular physical activity, balancing blood sugar, and getting proper sleep. Both high blood pressure and high blood sugar can negatively impact cognitive function and cause memory problems. Older adults are also encouraged to track changes in their cognitive skills and memory by visiting their healthcare provider for a checkup every six to 12 months.
How Therapy Can Help
Research suggests that those who are experiencing distress or anxiety as a result of having been diagnosed with an MCI or dementia can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It can also be useful for family members who are responsible for undertaking the dementia care for one of their loved ones. Those who are looking to keep their brain in good health to prevent future cognitive impairment may also find therapy to be a stimulating, useful activity. For those who feel intimidated at the prospect of meeting with a therapist in person or who are unable to travel to and from appointments, virtual therapy may be an option to consider.
A 2021 study examined how effective online CBT can be for older adults with an MCI. More than half of participants reported that virtual treatment was a viable option, and that their ability to seek treatment from home was a “tremendous boost.” If you’re interested in trying this therapy format, a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp is an option to consider. You can get matched with a licensed therapist with whom you can meet via phone, video call, and/or online chat, all from the comfort of home.
What percent of the population has dementia?
The prevalence of dementia varies by region and increases with age. According to estimates from Columbia University, around 10% of the world develops dementia after age 65. In another study, it was found that dementia occurs in an estimated 13.9% of individuals aged 71 and older. Dementia is also the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute on Aging.
What are the statistics on dementia?
There are many general statistics on dementia, here are a few that shed light on this condition:
- More than 55 million people worldwide are experiencing dementia, these individuals are found in low, medium, and high income countries.
- Dementia has economic impacts and costs the global economy around 1.3 trillion dollars per year. Most of this cost is in the form of unpaid care from caregivers who help with daily activities and a strong public health response could lower these costs for many families.
- Alzheimer’s Disease is the most prevalent form of dementia in the United States with over 5.8 million individuals having the disease.
What are 5 facts about dementia?
Dementia is an often misunderstood condition that may impact individuals and their families in different ways. Here are five facts about dementia:
- Dementia Is Not a Normal Part of Aging: While memory and cognitive changes can occur as people age, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. It is a progressive and often debilitating condition characterized by significant cognitive decline that interferes with daily life.
- Dementia Has Many Causes: Dementia is not a single disease but rather an umbrella term for a range of cognitive disorders. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, but other causes include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and more. Each type of dementia has distinct characteristics and underlying causes.
- Impact on Memory and Functioning: For most people, dementia typically affects multiple cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning, language, and problem-solving. It can also lead to changes in behavior, mood, and personality. As the condition progresses, individuals may have difficulty with basic activities of daily living.
- Family and Caregiver Impact: Dementia has a profound impact not only on individuals with the condition but also on their families and caregivers. Providing care for someone with dementia can be emotionally and physically challenging, and caregivers often need support and resources to cope with the demands of caregiving.
- No Cure, but Management is Possible: Currently, there is no cure for dementia. However, there are interventions and treatments available that can help manage symptoms, slow the progression of the condition, and improve the quality of life for individuals with dementia. Early diagnosis and appropriate medical care are essential in optimizing treatment outcomes.
What is the rate of dementia by age?
Accord to research in 2020, the rate of Alheimer’s dementia by age is as follows:
- 3% ages 65-74
- 17% ages 75-84
- 32% ages 85 and higher
Is dementia 100% genetic?
Dementia is not 100% genetic, but genetics can play a role in the risk of developing certain types of dementia. Dementia is a complex condition influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Is dementia rare or common?
Dementia is a common condition, particularly in older adults, and its prevalence is increasing as the global population ages. While it is not rare, its frequency can vary by region and is influenced by factors such as population demographics and healthcare access. Here are some key points about the prevalence of dementia:
- Age-Related Increase: Dementia becomes more common with age. The risk of developing dementia roughly doubles every five years after the age of 65. As a result, the prevalence of dementia is higher in older age groups.
- Global Impact: Dementia is a global health challenge. In 2021, it was estimated that approximately 5-8% of the population aged 60 and older had dementia. This equates to tens of millions of people worldwide living with the condition.
- Regional Variation: The prevalence of dementia can vary by region and country. High-income countries with aging populations tend to have a higher prevalence of dementia. However, low- and middle-income countries are also experiencing an increasing burden of dementia as their populations age.
- Projected Increase: The number of people with dementia is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades due to population aging. By 2050, it is estimated that the global number of individuals with dementia will reach 152 million.
- Challenges and Awareness: Despite its prevalence, dementia is often underdiagnosed or diagnosed in the later stages. Many individuals and families affected by dementia face challenges related to awareness, access to health care, and stigma associated with the condition.
What is the main cause of dementia?
Dementia is not a single disease but a syndrome characterized by a decline in cognitive function that interferes with daily life. There are several different types and causes of dementia, and the specific cause can vary among individuals. The main causes of dementia include:
- Alzheimer's Disease: Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for a significant portion of dementia cases. It is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits (amyloid plaques and tau tangles) in the brain, leading to the death of nerve cells and progressive cognitive decline.
- Vascular Dementia: Vascular dementia results from reduced blood flow to the brain, often due to strokes or small vessel disease. Damage to brain tissue caused by impaired blood flow can lead to cognitive impairment.
- Lewy Body Dementia: Lewy body dementia is characterized by the presence of abnormal protein deposits called Lewy bodies in the brain. It shares some symptoms with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease and can lead to cognitive, motor, and psychiatric symptoms.
- Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD): FTD is a group of rare disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. It can result in changes in behavior, personality, and language, as well as cognitive decline.
- Parkinson's Disease Dementia: Some individuals with Parkinson's disease may develop dementia as the condition progresses. This form of dementia is associated with the underlying brain changes seen in Parkinson's disease.
- Huntington's Disease: Huntington's disease is a genetic disorder that can lead to dementia. It is characterized by abnormal movements, psychiatric symptoms, and cognitive decline.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare, rapidly progressing neurological disorder caused by abnormal proteins called prions. It results in a decline in cognitive and motor function.
- Mixed Dementia: In some cases, individuals may have a combination of two or more types of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. This is known as mixed dementia.
- Other Causes: There are other less common causes of dementia, including certain metabolic and infectious diseases, traumatic brain injury, and reversible dementias caused by treatable medical conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies, thyroid dysfunction, or medication side effects.
Who is more likely to get dementia?
Several factors can influence an individual's likelihood of developing dementia. While dementia can affect a wide range of people, some groups are at a higher risk than others. Here are some factors that can increase the risk of developing dementia:
- Age: The risk of dementia increases significantly with age. Dementia is more common in older adults, and the prevalence of the condition roughly doubles every five years after the age of 65.
- Family History: A family history of dementia can increase an individual's risk, particularly if a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) has been diagnosed with dementia. Certain genetic factors may contribute to familial forms of dementia.
- Genetics: While most cases of dementia are not directly inherited, specific genetic factors can increase the risk of developing certain types of dementia. For example, the APOE ε4 allele is associated with an increased risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
- Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Conditions that affect the cardiovascular system, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity, are associated with an increased risk of vascular dementia and may contribute to cognitive decline.
- Lifestyle Factors: Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a diet high in saturated fats and sugars, lack of physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption, can contribute to vascular risk factors and increase the risk of dementia.
- Traumatic Brain Injury: A history of severe head injuries or traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be a risk factor for the development of dementia, especially if the injuries occurred earlier in life.
- Education and Cognitive Reserve: Lower levels of education and limited engagement in mentally stimulating activities throughout life may be associated with a higher risk of dementia. Cognitive reserve, which refers to the brain's ability to withstand damage, may be influenced by education and cognitive engagement.
- Social Isolation: Social isolation and lack of social engagement can be risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia. Staying socially active and maintaining social connections may have a protective effect.
- Depression and Mental Health: Conditions like depression and chronic stress have been associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Treating mental health conditions and managing stress can be important for brain health.
Can dementia be cured?
Dementia is a progressive condition characterized by a decline in cognitive function, and the underlying brain changes associated with dementia, such as the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the case of Alzheimer's disease, cannot be reversed. However, it's important to emphasize that while dementia cannot be cured, there are interventions and treatments available that can help manage symptoms, slow the progression of the condition, and improve the quality of life for individuals with dementia.
Can you prevent dementia?
While it is not always possible to completely prevent dementia, there are several strategies and lifestyle choices that may help reduce the risk of developing the condition or delay its onset. These preventive measures focus on maintaining overall brain health and reducing risk factors associated with dementia. Here are some ways to potentially reduce the risk of dementia:
- Stay Physically Active: Regular physical activity is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, swimming, or dancing.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: A balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can support brain health. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, has been linked to a reduced risk of dementia.
- Manage Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity can increase the risk of dementia. Managing these risk factors through lifestyle changes and medication when necessary can help reduce the risk.
- Mental Stimulation: Engage in activities that challenge your brain, such as puzzles, crossword puzzles, reading, learning a new language, or pursuing new hobbies. Cognitive stimulation can help maintain cognitive function.
- Social Engagement: Maintain social connections and engage in social activities. Staying socially active and participating in meaningful social interactions can support brain health.
- Quality Sleep: Prioritize good sleep hygiene. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Poor sleep and sleep disorders may increase the risk of cognitive decline.
- Avoid Smoking: Smoking is a known risk factor for dementia. Quitting smoking can have multiple health benefits, including reducing dementia risk.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Manage Stress: Chronic stress may contribute to cognitive decline. Stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation exercises can be beneficial.
- Stay Heart-Healthy: What's good for the heart is often good for the brain. A heart-healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management can support brain health.
- Regular Health Check-Ups: Visit your healthcare provider regularly for check-ups and to manage chronic health conditions. Early detection and management of medical issues can help reduce the risk of dementia.
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