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Dementia Week, 19 – 25 September 2022.

Dementia affects almost half a million Australians and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people experience dementia at a rate 3 - 5 times higher than the general population. They are also more likely to develop dementia at a younger age.

But what is dementia exactly?

Most people think of dementia as having a problem with memory, but it can also affect your way of thinking, language, attention, mood, daily function, and behaviour. Dementia is a broad term that describes a syndrome which causes a decline in memory, thinking, and behaviour.

There are many causes of dementia but the most common include:

• Alzheimer's disease (50 to 75% of cases) • Vascular dementia (20 to 30%) • Frontotemporal dementias (up to 10%) • Dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson disease dementia (up to 10%)

People can often have a combination of causes, with the most common being Alzheimer's Disease and Vascular Dementia. Alzheimer's Disease is a physical brain condition that disrupts how the nerves within the brain work and communicate with each other. It can be caused by genetics, lifestyle, and health factors. Vascular dementia occurs from strokes and damage to large and small blood vessels that supply the brain, which can be caused by other untreated health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Some risk factors for developing dementia we can't change, such as our age, genetics, and family history. So, what can we do to try and prevent dementia?

The following things can help reduce our risk factors and reduce our chances of developing dementia in our lifetime:

• Book regular GP check-ups for blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cholesterol • Eat a healthy diet • Stop smoking • Reduce alcohol intake • Remain mentally and socially active • Protect the head from injury (such as wearing a helmet when cycling) • Prevent hearing loss (such as wearing high-quality earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud noise) • Exercise regularly • Practice good sleep hygiene • Maintain a healthy weight

What are the signs and symptoms of dementia to look out for?

There are many signs of dementia and often these can be missed until late as they can come on slowly over a long period of time. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms to look out for:

• Deterioration of reasoning and thinking skills • Persistent and frequent short-term memory loss, especially recalling more recent events • Increasing disorientation in time, place, and person • Language and comprehension difficulties, such as problems finding the right word • Taking longer to do routine tasks • Changes in ability to plan, problem solve, organise, and think logically • Vagueness in everyday conversation • Repeatedly saying the same thing • Mild memory problems • Walking and movement problems • Changes in behaviour, personality, or mood • Lack of bladder control

There is no single specific test for diagnosing dementia and the diagnosis depends on the history, risk factors, and excluding other medical causes. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have signs of dementia, the best thing you can do is speak to your doctor about it. They can work with you to find out the cause of your concerns and help manage what might be causing the issue.

Sometimes families worry that their Elders may be taken away and put in a nursing home if they are found to have dementia, but there are many forms of support that can help people stay in their homes for as long as possible.

With the right support and assistance in place, people with dementia can live long and fulfilling lives. So please, speak to your doctor today about any concerns so they can make sure treatment and support is provided as soon as possible.

Ipswich Clinic PH: (07) 3810 3000 Laidley Clinic PH: (07) 5465 3541


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