If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with dementia, you might feel shocked and frightened. You might also be confused about what this diagnosis really means. What is dementia? How will it affect you and your family? There are likely a ton of questions swirling in your head and very few answers.
One thing you need to be careful about is the misinformation that seems to be going around concerning dementia. Fortunately, we’re here to help clear up some of the confusion. Here are lies you’ve been told about dementia that you shouldn’t believe.
1. Dementia can’t happen to younger people
Most people associate dementia with older people, but this condition is not just limited to the older population. Young people can get dementia, too. Among the more than 5 million Americans battling Alzheimer’s disease, up to 5% have the early-onset type, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s common for people with early-onset Alzheimer’s to be diagnosed in their 40s and 50s.
2. Dementia is just forgetfulness
Having dementia is much more than just being forgetful. Mayo Clinic describes the condition as a group of symptoms that severely affect memory, thinking, and social abilities. Some of the signs and symptoms associated with dementia include problems with memory, impairment of thought, and behavioral changes. These symptoms become severe enough to disrupt one’s daily activities.
3. Dementia is a disease
Many people think that dementia is one type of disease, but it’s actually a condition that describes a range of symptoms. There is more than one type of dementia, but the most common is Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates this particular type accounts for 60% to 70% of dementia cases. The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, which usually occurs after a stroke.
4. Memory problems are always a sign of dementia
Problems with memory do not always signal dementia. There are other health conditions — and even prescription drugs — that can affect memory. Depression and chronic stress, for example, can impair cognitive functioning. In addition, some medications for depression can cause issues with memory. A lack of proper nutrients in your diet can also cause you to have problems remembering things. If your diet is deficient in vitamins B1 and B12, this could lead to difficulty with memory, according to WebMD.
5. If you have no family history, you’re not at risk
Some people think a lack of family history for dementia means they’re safe, but it’s just not true. Unfortunately, even if there is no family history of dementia, there are still some things you might be doing that could raise your risk. Researchers have found certain factors, such as living near a busy road, taking certain medications, smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle, and even a vitamin D deficiency could increase your risk of developing dementia.
6. It’s hopeless once you get a diagnosis
You might believe there is nothing that can be done once this diagnosis is made, but this is also untrue. There’s a possibility to slow down the condition’s progression. Some medications can slow progression for certain types, and engaging in mental exercises like crossword puzzles and reading regularly may help. One study, which is admittedly very limited and yet to be supported by similar results, published in the Journal of Aging found a combination of exercise, mental stimulation, improved sleep, and improved diet could reverse cognitive decline.
7. Dementia is a normal part of aging
Most people tend to think dementia is just a normal part of the aging process. Once you get past a certain age, you just forget things and your family should just expect it. However, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. Rather, it’s a syndrome that describes a group of brain illnesses. You shouldn’t expect to start having cognitive decline just because you are past a certain age.
8. Fewer people are getting dementia
Despite medical advances, dementia will continue to be a problem. In fact, researchers say more people will be diagnosed with the condition. The World Health Organization says and estimated 47 million people are currently living with dementia worldwide. Unfortunately, this number is expected increase to 75 million by 2030. Furthermore, dementia cases are expected to almost triple by 2050.
When to see a doctor
If you or someone close to you has been having noticeable memory problems or other symptoms of dementia, it’s time to call a medical professional. There is a possibility you or your loved one could have another medical condition that has symptoms similar to dementia. It’s best to seek professional care so that a proper diagnosis can be made and any other diseases can be ruled out.
If you or a close friend or family member are facing a dementia diagnosis, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. Here are a few that may assist you with navigating this issue: