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How You Could Delay Dementia, According to Science

Early detection and preventative measures can change the game, says a recent report.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Dementia can be devastating—but what if it could also be caught early and prevented? "In the United States, more than 7.2 million people currently live with dementia. Comprising 60 to 80 percent of cases, Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia," write the authors in a recent report from the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. "However, despite being a leading cause of death in the US, dementia is currently underdiagnosed or diagnosed in its later stages." Read on to see how you might prevent it—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

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First of All, Did You Know More Than 40% of Probable Dementia Cases Go Undiagnosed?

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"Research reviews estimate that between 40 to 60 percent of adults with probable dementia are undiagnosed. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of dementia are critical to protecting individuals against risks from delayed or missed diagnosis and allow individuals, their families, and their caregivers to plan for the future as the condition progresses," say the authors, Diane Ty and Mac McDermott. 

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Women and Minorities Will Be Disproportionately Impacted by Dementia

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"The Milken Institute estimates that the number of adults living with ADRD will nearly double over the next 20 years, disproportionately impacting women and diverse communities, especially African Americans and Latinos," say the authors. "As the demographic makeup of the US continues to grow older and more diverse, building strategies to augment timely detection and diagnosis is increasingly paramount. The Alliance believes the enormity of dementia's societal impact must be met by a workforce capable of improving identification and quality of care upon diagnosis."

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Here's How You Could Delay Dementia

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"Timely detection and diagnosis among adults at higher risk for dementia are critical for new treatments to have an impact and to reduce risks or delay onset," report the authors. "The Lancet Commission recently added three modifiable risk factors to the nine they identified and modeled in 2017. Together, these 12 modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, excess alcohol consumption, hearing loss, hypertension, obesity, and depression, collectively account for roughly 40 percent of worldwide dementias, which could "theoretically be prevented or delayed" if the risk factors were avoided. These developments, along with consensus that changes to the brain can occur 10 to 20 years before signs of cognitive impairment are noticeable, suggest that more routine screening could motivate individuals to modify their lifestyles to reduce risk."

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Signs You May Have Dementia Now

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"Timely detection and diagnosis enable patients and their families to embrace lifestyle modifications that can reduce risk or slow disease progression, gain access to treatments to help manage symptoms, and proactively plan for future care," say the authors. "Terry Fulmer, Ph.D., RN, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation" notes "that components for increasing detection— effective screening tools, workflows, training, billing codes, and ROI analysis—already exist but have not coalesced and been brought to scale." Until the recommendations in the report are adopted and scaled up, talk to your doctor if you feel you suffer from dementia symptoms, including:

  • Memory loss, which is usually noticed by a spouse or someone else.
  • Difficulty communicating or finding words.
  • Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities, such as getting lost while driving.
  • Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving.
  • Difficulty handling complex tasks.
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing.

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more