Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: Recent Developments

Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment - Recent Developments
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(Last Updated On: September 18, 2018)

Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: Recent Developments

Dementia – a term that many uses to describe a decline in mental abilities which negatively affect one’s well-being. Of course, whenever this group of symptoms is mentioned, Alzheimer’s disease springs to mind since it is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80% of all cases while vascular dementia (occurs after a stroke) comes behind as the second most common dementia type. Considering the number of people who experience this as they age, it is only reasonable to take a more in-depth look at current trends in dementia diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis

It may be common knowledge, but it’s worth mentioning that there is no test to determine whether a person has dementia. Health professionals use medical history, physical examination, lab tests and changes in thinking, daily functioning and behavior to diagnose Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. And while there is no difficulty for doctors to determine if a person has dementia, there are troubles to determine the exact nature of it. That is due to the symptoms and brain changes of different dementias that can overlap. That’s why a doctor can diagnose dementia but cannot provide the specific type. Fortunately, when this happens, a specialist such as a neurologist or a neuropsychologist can help.

Treatment & care

The treatment depends on the cause of dementia. Unfortunately, for most progressive dementias (such as Alzheimer’s), no cure and treatment slows down or completely stops the development of dementia. However, various drug treatments can work on improving symptoms temporarily. Also, nowadays, there are great programs for people who suffer from dementia. For example, characteristics of an excellent dementia home care program include great individualized care, high-quality environments, great staff to resident ratios, regular check-ins and interviews with the aim of careful monitoring of dementia levels which ultimately leads to the best care response. The team has to be thoughtful, organized and well-trained, of course. Therefore, should the need arise, this is definitely something worth considering?

Incidence of dementia

Let’s take a look at some figures about dementia incidence. Nine studies had tracked dementia incidence over time. There have been reductions in the prevalence of dementia in two studies conducted among US residents. One included African Americans in Indianapolis, and the other was derived from the Framingham study. Another study was conducted in Bordeaux, France. The rates of relative change (annually) stand at -5.5%, 1.6%, and 3.5% respectively and they are consistent with a non-significant -2.5% annual rate of relative change in incidence reported in the Rotterdam study.

What’s more, a similar annual rate of decline in dementia incidence (-3.0%) has been published in an analysis of German insurance claims data. However, this time, there was only a 3-year interval between the midpoints of the two follow-up periods. According to figures above, the age-specific prevalence of dementia is unlikely to change considerably shortly.

Risk factors

Various risk factors for dementia, such as age and genetics can never be changed. But researchers are exploring the impact of other risk factors on brain health and prevention of dementia. The most active areas of research include cardiovascular factors, diet, and physical activity. And you’ve probably heard this before but what you eat impacts the brain health through its effect on heart health. Also, regular physical exercise can help lower the risk of some types of dementia (activity increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain). Last but not least, the mind is nourished by a network of blood vessels. Any damage that the vessels have to go through can have detrimental effects on the health of the brain.

As the evidence already suggests, the age-specific prevalence of dementia is unlikely to change in the coming years even if the dementia incidence falls in response to secular improvements in public health (which is only characteristic for high-income countries). So, inform yourself, educate yourself and prepare well. Knowing a thing or two and staying up to date about dementia can never hurt.

by Lillian Connors

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About Lillian Connors 26 Articles
If one thing is true about Lillian Connors, her mind is utterly curious. That’s why she can’t resist the urge to embark on a myriad of projects related to green and healthy living and spread the word about them.

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