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Can Memory Loss and Dementia Be Prevented?

Young people often do not worry about dementia as it mainly affects elderly people. However, one of the main concerns that youth commonly share is the prevention of the onset of illnesses such as dementia. To these ends, influencers and educational accounts across all social media platforms often promote certain lifestyles, remedies, and exercises to strengthen one’s mind and prevent chronic and/or progressive syndromes such as dementia. Some sources make far-fetched claims about the efficacy of certain herbal teas or natural remedies, while others provide feasible prevention tips. The real question is whether any of these remedies truly work.


Image is courtesy of Exquisicare.


What is Dementia?


According to an online source, “Dementia is a loss of mental skills that affects your daily life. It can cause problems with your memory and how well you can think and plan. Usually, dementia gets worse over time. How long this takes is different for each person. Some people stay the same for years. Others lose skills quickly.” So, whether dementia runs in your family or not, you are at some risk of developing the syndrome. In fact, dementia affects 1 out of every 3 elderly aged 85 or older in the U.S. Though the percentage is significant, the syndrome is actually not normal. Not only is it widespread among the elderly, but according to the CDC, it also occurs in younger people. 200,000 cases of younger-onset forms of dementia exist in the U.S. alone. Moreover, there are numerous forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, and Mixed dementia are all types of dementia that progress and are irreversible.


Image is courtesy of Alzheimer’s Association.


Symptoms


Dementia is often characterized by a given set of definite symptoms. The syndrome initiates numerous cognitive changes such as memory loss, difficulty communicating or expressing ideas, an inability to effectively use visual and spatial abilities, an impaired reasoning ability, difficulty compartmentalizing and/or organizing, and a lack of clarity. Examples of these changes include getting lost while driving and exhibiting significant memory loss that is often pointed out by someone else. The syndrome also causes various physical changes. According to Mayo Clinic, these changes can include but are not limited to personality changes, depression, anxiety, inappropriate behaviour, paranoia, agitation, and hallucinations. Clearly, the syndrome imposes an extensive amount of symptoms on most patients. However, it is important to note that different forms of the syndrome can mean that a patient will experience a select type of symptoms. The severity of a given patient’s state also influences the number and severity of symptoms they will experience.


Image is courtesy of the FDA.


How Preventable is Dementia?


According to Stanford HealthCare, Dementia is a condition that is extremely difficult to prevent. This is for a multitude of reasons. Scientists have yet to fully understand the brain, its functions, and how certain neurological conditions come to be. One of these conditions is dementia. While some common roots of the syndrome, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, have been pinpointed, scientists have yet to fully understand why dementia appears in a given percentage of elderly and not the rest. Dementia can also be inherited, ergo adding to the complexity of the syndrome.


Common Prevention Tips


However, despite the uncertainty, common things that people are advised to avoid in hopes of preventing dementia are cigarettes, unhealthy diets, obesity, and negligence of health issues. Maintaining a healthy social life and taking care of one’s mental health are also important factors. Doctors can also recommend taking aspirin.


Image is courtesy of BMJ Journals.


Promising Research


So far, we have established that dementia can not be completely prevented because of the lack of sufficient information about it. On the contrary, there are numerous closed and ongoing trials that have sought to investigate the syndrome. Indeed, they have increased our horizon of knowledge when it comes to dementia and memory loss in general. For instance, some clinical trials have tested the effects of a given drug or treatment plan for Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia. These trials vary in their target audience, their chosen type of dementia, their selected stage of the syndrome or disease, and their observed treatment plan. This means that numerous forms of dementia are being studied and observed meticulously by scientists on an ongoing basis. The good news is that new possible forms of stronger prevention methods may come forth as a result of these studies.


While dementia may not be fully understood yet, it is rapidly being studied across the world in hopes of reducing the hold it has on the elderly and a select few younger adults. These studies have also been a driving force in the advancement of treatment. While it is important to prevent the onset of the syndrome, it is also critical that patients diagnosed with the syndrome are properly treated. With the help of new discoveries, physicians can diagnose and treat their patients in a more efficient and effective manner. Additionally, these clinical trials have been a huge success because of the number of willing participants. Thus, though dementia and memory loss are yet to be preventable and fully understood, notable strides have been made towards the goal.



Article author: Scarlet Affa

Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Victoria Huang