Surgery News

Many Aussies would take a test for dementia

October 15, 2015

Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of conditions which cause a progressive decline in a person's functioning; it is a broad term to describe the loss of mental processing ability, including memory, communication, abstract thinking, judgement and self control.

It is different from simple forgetfulness and is not a normal consequence of ageing.

The report, "The Pfizer Australia Health Report", indicates that by the time we reach our forties most people want to know what their personal risk for dementia is.

While advance knowledge about that personal risk is more important to women than men, nevertheless most people do nothing to prepare for it.

The findings are the result of responses to a survey conducted in October 2007, of 1,458 Australians aged 18 and over, by independent consultants, Stollznow Research; almost half of those questioned knew a family member or friend who had dementia.

The research has revealed that almost two thirds of Australians between 51 and 60 years of age have not discussed their future care arrangements with family or friends, and almost one in five do not have any legal or financial planning arrangements in place for later in life.

Alzheimer's Australia says it is crucial that community attitudes start to change and people become better informed about the importance of advance planning for their health, their money and future care and how to organise this.

Alzheimer's Australia's Executive Director, Mr Glenn Rees says more than one in every two Australians believe that people with dementia are unfairly treated or discriminated against and he says the report confirms the stigma surrounding dementia.

Mr Rees says this can be overcome through improved public awareness and better access to support programs, which help people lead as normal a life as possible after diagnosis.

The report has also revealed that while nine out of ten Australians feel there is something that can be done to reduce their risk of developing dementia, 48 per cent don't know whether medication can help in treating the condition.

Mr Rees says this indicates a strong argument for a national initiative to promote a greater understanding of the contribution lifestyle changes may make to reduce the risk of dementia.

The survey found that 84 per cent of Australians believe that staying mentally active might help reduce their risk of developing dementia and 52 per cent believe reducing or quitting smoking may help to reduce their risk.

More than two thirds of Australians believe that adopting a healthy lifestyle may help to prevent dementia, which includes eating a healthy diet, staying socially active and connected, and exercising regularly.

Both healthy lifestyle and mental activity have been strongly implicated in studies aimed at reducing Alzheimer's risk, with Australian researchers recently advocating the "use it or lose it" capacity of the brain.

The difference between dementia and Alzheimer's disease is simply that Alzheimer's disease is one of the major causes of dementia but there are many others.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia accounting for between 50% and 70% of all cases and is a physical condition which attacks the brain, resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.

As brain cells die, abnormal material builds up and as the disease progresses, long-term memory is also lost; the disease also affects many of the brain's other functions and as a result many other of behaviour.

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause accounting for up to 20% of all cases of dementia; strokes and mini strokes can cause vascular dementia, as can poor circulation of blood to the brain.

The symptoms of vascular dementia may appear similar to Alzheimer's disease.

There are other causes of dementia such as Parkinson's disease and most forms of dementia, are progressive and incurable.

Dementia affects the young as well as older people and there are 10,000 Australians with dementia who are people under 65; some are as young as 35.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are all risk factors for the development of dementia, as well as for heart disease and eating healthily and exercising regularly are important in reducing dementia risks, as is management of diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

Alzheimer's Australia says the findings were both surprising and encouraging.

The Pfizer Australia Health Report was produced in partnership with Alzheimer's Australia and can be accessed at www.healthreport.au