According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, someone develops dementia every three seconds around the world. Correspondingly, about 50 million people have dementia worldwide, with nearly 60% living in low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, the overall prevalence of dementia was estimated at about 2.4% in adults older than 50 years in Africa. This translates to 2.76 million people living with the illness in 2010. Interestingly, it was discovered to be predominant among females aged 80. The most prevalent causes of dementia are Alzheimer disease(57.1%), Stroke and vascular dementia (26.9%). Age, female sex and cardiovascular disease are among the factors affecting the risk of dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome in thought-processing ability declines beyond the expectations for normal ageing. It can be chronic or progressive nature, affecting memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of dementia comes in three stages:
Firstly, the Early stage usually has a gradual onset, making it easy to miss. Its symptoms include forgetfulness, losing track of the time, becoming lost in familiar places.
Secondly, the Middle stage progresses into clearer and more limiting symptoms. These include becoming forgetful of recent events and people’s names, becoming lost at home, increasing difficulty with communication, needing help with personal care, behaviour changes including wandering and repeated questioning.
Lasatly, the Late-stage features almost complete dependence and inactivity. Additionally, it features physical signs and more distinct memory disturbances. For instance, becoming unaware of time and place, difficulty recognizing relatives/friends, increasing need for assisted self-care, difficulty walking, escalated behaviour changes including aggression.
Currently, there is no treatment available to cure or to alter its progressive course. However, it is possible to support and improve the lives of patients, their carers and families. Early diagnosis helps promote early and optimal management, identifying and treating accompanying physical illness, detecting and treating challenging behavioural and psychological symptoms.
Risk factors and prevention
The strongest known risk factor for the illness is age. However, dementia is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. Furthermore, it does not exclusively affect older people – young onset dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 years) accounts for up to 9% of cases. Studies show that people can reduce their risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additional risk factors include depression, low educational attainment, social isolation, and cognitive inactivity.