- A new government report shows that the number of deaths from dementia has more than doubled in the United States in less than two decades.
- People are living longer, but doctors are also more aware of the disease, which could explain this rise.
- Doctors explain how dementia can lead to life-threatening complications and what you can do to protect yourself from the disease.
It is no secret that dementia is a terrible disease, but a new government report shows that it is also increasingly deadly.
The report, published by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that the rate of Americans who died from dementia had more than doubled in less than two decades. The data show in particular that dementia caused 30.5 deaths per 100,000 population in 2000 and that it reached 66.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2017. Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of more prevalent dementia accounted for 46% of dementia deaths in 2017.
Dementia is a term used to describe a group of conditions that affect thinking, memory, and behavior enough to interfere with a person's daily life, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), these diseases include Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal disorders and vascular dementia.
Why are more people dying of dementia?
According to David A. Merrill, MD, Ph.D., a neurologist and geriatric psychiatrist at Saint John's Providence Health Center in Santa Monica, California, this is likely due to a combination of factors.
"There is a" money tsunami, "he says." People are living longer and are older, and we know that age is the most important unmodifiable risk factor for dementia. "
In addition, says Dr. Merrill, the medical community and the general population are more aware of the disease, although the way dementia is diagnosed has not changed. "It may be that dementia is more sought after now than in the past," he explains, resulting in a slight increase in the number of dementias.
How does dementia really kill you?
When dementia becomes advanced, a person's brain tissue contracts and she can no longer look after herself or even communicate, says the NIA. Over time, this can lead to a series of life-threatening complications, Dr. Merrill said.
Many people with dementia have food problems, such as difficulty swallowing. When a person can not swallow properly, food or drinks can end up in the lungs, where it can cause pneumonia, says Dr. Merrill. When bacterial pneumonia is not treated, it can spread to other parts of the body and potentially lead to sepsis, a serious immune system reaction that can be fatal. In addition to this, a patient may also become dehydrated or malnourished due to his inability to swallow.
Diseases that are not detected right away
Other serious illnesses, such as influenza, can also lead to the death of dementia patients if they become serious enough. "People with advanced dementia are not able to express through language the fact that they feel sick and it is possible that the disease will be detected later," says Dr. Merrill. "When a disease is finally detected, it can be more advanced and take control of the body to the extent that it would not have been the case if a person did not have dementia."
Falls can also be a cause of death related to dementia. "People with dementia tend to lose awareness of their limitations and can always take risks they could not do in the past, such as forgetting that they can not walk without help," says Dr. Merrill . "And falls involve a risk of serious injury and death." In fact, falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury death among people aged 65 or older, according to the CDC.
What are the first signs of dementia?
For the record, it's normal to forget about this, especially when you get older, says Amit Sachdev, MD, neurologist and director of the Division of Neuromuscular Medicine at Michigan State University. "As the brain ages, it contracts and slows down," he says. "The vast majority of people will change their memory with age." Normal memory problems can include forgetting names of acquaintances (but not dear ones) and why you went to the fridge, he says.
But when memories are disruptive or frequent, it can be an early sign of dementia, says Verna R. Porter, MD, a neurologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California. This can lead to problems with work, activities, family relationships and paying bills, she says.
Porter recommends consulting a doctor if you or a member of your family do any of the following:
- Repeating the same question
- Forgetting a word / phrase or idea while talking
- Insert the wrong word into the conversation, for example, say "chair" instead of "couch"
- Take more time to complete tasks, tasks or daily business (for example, paying bills or handling mail)
- Frequently misplace objects / objects around the house
- Getting lost while walking or driving in relatively familiar areas
- Have abrupt or unexplained changes in mood, personality or behavior without clear reason
Can you prevent dementia?
There are still many things that experts do not know about dementia and its causes, but Dr. Porter states that it is generally accepted that you can reduce your risk of developing the disease by exercising regularly. , by staying socially engaged, by eating healthy MIND Diet (which includes eating green leafy vegetables, whole grains and fish), boosting your brain, sleeping regularly and managing your stress.
Conclusion: It is essential to consult a doctor if you or a loved one begins to show signs of dementia. "It's never too early or too late to be screened for treatment," says Dr. Merrill.