When we hear the word dementia, most automatically think of Alzheimer’s disease. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, there are other types, not as well known, that are equally catastrophic. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in America, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and is slow progressing. Individuals start off having memory issues such as forgetting names or people close to them, they can also start having difficulty with everyday tasks like getting dressed or using the bathroom. As the disease progresses, the gaps in memory become more significant. Individuals begin to forget important information such as phone numbers and addresses, or being able to identify a day or season. In the end stages of the disease, a person will require constant care and supervision.
Lewy body dementia (LBD) also affects over 1 million Americans and is misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Lewy body is the second most common form of dementia and the most common symptoms are, impaired thinking and loss of executive functions such as visual hallucinations, behavioral, and mood changes. Usually LBD onset occurs later in life (between 50 and 85 years old). However, the final stages of this disease are similar to those of other dementias, with the individual needing 24 hour care or placement in a assisted living facility or skilled nursing home.
Another form of dementia, not normally known, is frontotemporal dementia. This form of dementia attacks the front and temporal lobes of the brain, shrinking them over a period of years, hence the name. A person with frontotemporal dementia may develop the disease as early as in their 40’s, and experience personality changes, inappropriate behavior, lack of good judgement and poor hygiene. These symptoms unfortunately worsen, and although memory is normal in the early and moderate stages, it too eventually goes. There are sub-types of frontotemporal dementia as well, and these can affect physical mobility or ability to speak.
Research is currently being done to find medications that target these specific diseases, and although there is not yet a cure for any of these dementias, there are medications that have been shown to help. Physical exercise, mental activity, a healthy diet (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) and avoiding or stopping smoking are the most up-to-date recommendations for preventing dementia.