According to the recent data, the number of dementia cases around the world is increasing. Around the world, more than 55 million people are currently living with dementia – and there are 10 million new cases every year.
The number of new cases per year continues to grow, and is projected to grow even further through 2050.
The question is, why is this the case?
Caring for a Patient With Dementia
Dementia is a disease of cognitive decline. Symptoms vary wildly between individuals, and at the earliest stages, dementia is extremely hard to delineate from basic signs of aging like memory loss.
Providing care to a patient with dementia can be challenging, as these people typically struggle with social interactions, basic living tasks, and memory.
As the number of dementia patients increases, the demand for caregivers increases, straining both healthcare systems and families that struggle to keep up.
If we can better understand the root causes of increasing dementia rates, we may be able to work proactively to reduce these cases in the future.
Root Causes of Increased Rates
These are some of the most significant root causes of increased rates of dementia throughout the world:
· Better diagnostic tools. For starters, modern scientists have a much better understanding of what dementia is and how it manifests, compared to our understanding even a decade ago. We have better diagnostic tools and better proactive screenings that can help us identify this disease more consistently and earlier on in its development. Even if the total number of dementia cases remained the same, our better diagnostic tools would allow us to identify more of those cases, artificially inflating our numbers. This isn’t a problem exclusive to dementia, either; better diagnostic tools are part of the reason why we’re seeing more cancer diagnoses, especially in young people.
· An aging population. The older you get, the higher your risk of dementia becomes. And if you live long enough, cognitive decline is practically an inevitability. Across the developed world, lifespans are getting longer; people have access to better medicine and better care, which in turn, allows them to push the average life expectancy forward. With an older population, it’s only natural that dementia rates are higher.
· Less social interaction. We also know that there’s a significant link between social interaction and the development of dementia. People who have many close relationships and frequent social interactions are much less likely to experience dementia, and their dementia cases are much slower to develop. Conversely, people who are more isolated are much more likely to be affected by dementia. Thanks to modern technology and social media, our population is growing to become more isolated, which could be a contributing factor here.
· The obesity epidemic. Another risk factor for dementia is obesity. The higher your body mass index (BMI) is, the more likely you are to develop dementia, and the faster you’ll develop it. Throughout the developed world, BMI has steadily increased, as we’ve gotten access to more convenient junk foods and led more sedentary lifestyles.
· Smoking. Though rates of tobacco use are down in most developed countries, developing countries still struggle with high rates of smoking. Since smoking is correlated with a higher risk of dementia, it’s reasonable that we see more of these cases.
Can You Prevent Dementia?
Can you prevent dementia in your own life?
The short answer is: not completely. No matter what you do, there will always be a risk of developing dementia, especially as you get older. But you can minimize your dementia risks with the following:
· Eat healthy, nutritious foods. Eating a diversity of healthy, nutritious foods is a great way to make sure you get all the nutrients you need to live a healthy life. It also has the excellent side effect of keeping your BMI in a reasonable range, thus reducing your risk of dementia on two different fronts.
· Get plenty of sleep. People have likely been telling you to get enough sleep your entire life, but have you made a concentrated effort to actually get it? Adults should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
· Quit smoking and drinking. Drinking alcohol excessively and using tobacco products are risk factors for dementia. Cut these habits if you can.
· Socialize regularly. Build strong relationships with your family members, friends, and neighbors – and try to socialize with them regularly to keep your mind active.
For some people, dementia is entirely unpreventable, though even in these cases, a handful of lifestyle habit improvements could help you delay the inevitable and make dementia milder. As we face increasing rates of dementia on a global scale, it’s our collective responsibility to take preventative action – and provide better care to the people struggling with this cognitive disease.
Related CTN News: