Dementia is a group brain disorders that affect memory, thinking, and behavior. It is a progressive and often irreversible disease that can have a devastating impact on the lives of those affected, as well as their families and caregivers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 50 million people worldwide living with dementia, and this number is expected to triple by 2050.
There are several different types of dementia, including:
- Vascular dementia, caused by damage to the blood vessels in the brain
- Lewy body dementia, caused by the buildup of an abnormal protein — alpha-synuclein — in the brain
- Frontotemporal dementia, which affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain — the areas responsible responsible for behavior, problem solving, and language
- Mixed dementia, a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and another form of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-70% of all cases. It’s a progressive disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and eventually leads to the inability to carry out even the simplest of tasks.
It affects nearly twice as many women as men, and the risk of developing the disease increases with age.
While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not known, researchers believe that genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors may all play a role in the development of the disease.
The prevalence of dementia varies around the world, with some regions having a higher number of cases than others. In high-income countries, the prevalence of dementia is higher than in low-income countries. It’s estimated to affect 7.1% of people in Europe, and 6.9% of the population of North America.
At Healthy Minds Initiative, we focus on community as a powerful force for preventive brain health, because dementia is not just an individual disease, but a societal one. Everyone has a role to play in reducing the risk of developing dementia.
Community-wide interventions such as educational campaigns, social activities, exercise programs, and agricultural infrastructure like support for farmers and community gardens have all been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce one’s risk of developing dementia.
We also work hard to raise awareness about dementia, thus helping to reduce the stigma associated with the disease, so people are more encouraged to seek help and support when needed.
Dementia can be a difficult and isolating disease, and having a supportive community can make all the difference for those affected by it.
Without a concerted effort to educate and prevent dementia, communities and economies may become overwhelmed. In response, Healthy Minds Initiative have committed to focusing on prevention efforts in communities over the next few decades, working with diverse groups of people to reduce the impact of dementia and improve the lives of those affected by it.