Dementia is a general term referring to a brain condition which is characterised by a drop in mental faculties which impair the affected person’s life.
Often, the type of dementia is difficult to distinguish and several medical examinations may be required to accurately diagnose dementia specifically. Risk factors, which cannot be changed are age, where risk significantly increases past 65, family history risk and people with down syndrome.
Risk factors, which can be influenced include amount of alcohol consumption, blood pressure, cholesterol level, depression, obesity and smoking. Symptoms of dementia differ greatly, but it is accepted that at least two of the following core mental functions must be impaired for a diagnosis of dementia:
- Communication and language
- Ability to focus and pay attention
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception
In practical real life terms, problems may begin to appear with not finding keys or a wallet, traveling from the home and organising meals and appointments. It is important to remember that often mild symptoms can appear without the person having dementia. Therefore, it is important that a proper medical assessment is conducted. There is no one test to assess dementia.
Diagnosis is based on various techniques such as memory tests, brain scanning and assessing changes in thinking and memory over time.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, being diagnosed in 60-80% of dementia cases. Symptoms usually begin slowly and worsen over time. This means, it is important to seek medical advice early on to get the maximum benefit of early treatment. This type of dementia causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour.
Other types of dementia include: Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Mixed dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, Huntington’s Disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
Here’s what you can do:
First recognise potential symptoms in you and others and undergo a medical examination. Become informed and realise that early recognition is always best. Try to control the risk factors which can be influenced early on. This includes living an active life physically and mentally.
It has been shown that exercise may reduce the risk of dementia and many other illnesses. This is logical as your body is similar to a car. You will have damage if left standing for too long without operation as well as when you overexert. A physiotherapist is specialised to advise you on the physical aspects of your health as you age. This is also the key to maintaining your social appointments, something which has been proven to improve life expectancy.
If you are diagnosed with dementia, don’t lose hope! Symptoms can be managed with drugs and the progression may be slowed in some types of dementia. It is now important to plan for the future and assess your options with medical consultation. This may include physiotherapy to improve mobility and reduce fall risk, modify your home for ease and to take certain medications.
To find out more, please see www.stayactivephysiotherapy.com.au