What Causes Dementia As You Get Older?

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 Neurologist, discusses the cause and risk of dementia.

 Neurologist, discusses the cause and risk of dementia.

Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Dean Foti, MD, FRCPC, Behavioural Neurologist
Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds
Dementia can affect people, really, at any age, though of course the biggest risk factor for dementia is getting older, so by far the rate of dementia increases by, it essentially doubles every five years after the age of 60. 
So by the time you’re in your mid-80s, about 20 percent of the population would have dementia, and about 40 percent of people over the age of 90 develop dementia. Most commonly it would be as you’re older, but you can also see it when you’re young, in your 30s and 40s, but much less frequently.
Families often ask, “What is my risk of developing dementia?” and in the general population, your risk in your lifetime is about 15 percent. But if you do have a family member that’s affected, like a parent, your risk does increase to about 22 percent, but it’s still much lower than half or 100 percent that a lot of people seem to think will face them as they get older. 
So we tell family members the risk is increased, but not that much in absolute terms, and you can do a number of things to prevent dementia, to keep your risk lower. And if you really are concerned about your family history, then I would encourage you to see your family doctor, and they might be able to refer you to a clinic near you that has a genetic counselor, and they can discuss that more with you. 




Presenter: Dr. Dean Foti, Neurologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Neurologist

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Quiz: Do You Understand Dementia?


Dementia isn’t just one condition.


Dementia isn’t just one condition - it’s a term that refers to symptoms that cause a decline in mental ability that interferes with daily life. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.


Alzheimer's disease is not a type of dementia.


In addition to Alzheimer's, some of the other things that can cause dementia include previous or new brain infections, a bad head injury, stroke or multiple sclerosis. There are some treatable conditions that can produce similar symptoms to dementia, such as thyroid disease, vitamin deficiencies, mental illness or sleep disorders.


Visual perception is a core mental function that can be impaired by dementia.


To have dementia, at least two of these core mental functions must be significantly impaired: memory, visual perception, reasoning and judgment, ability to focus or problem-solve and language and communication.


There is one test that can diagnose dementia.


There isn’t one test to diagnose dementia. A physician will usually do a physical examination, ask health history questions, test memory and recommend a blood test, MRI or CT scan. He or she will probably double check symptoms and answers with a loved one as well.


There is no cure for dementia.


Dementia treatment may include medications to slow progression, but they’re not a cure. Counselling, family support and social programs can help people and their loved ones deal with dementia.

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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