The Different Types of Dementia in the Elderly

Did you know that approximately 60% of U.S. adults have at least one chronic disease? About 40% even have two or more!

Dementia, in turn, is a common chronic condition affecting millions of Americans.

There are different types of dementia, many of which are more prevalent among the elderly. However, it’s vital to note that these cognitive issues aren’t a part of the normal aging process.

So if you’re caring for an aging parent, it’s best to learn more about dementia and its symptoms. We explain the most common ones below, so read on.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects an estimated 6.5 million people in the U.S. aged 65 and older. Moreover, experts project it to grow to 13.8 million come 2060.

That makes Alzheimer’s the most prevalent type of dementia in elderly Americans. As a result, many are in senior living facilities offering memory or skilled care.

Experts are still trying to discover what causes AD, but they know some cases involve genes.

In genetic cases, there seems to be a relationship between AD and gene mutations. Since they’re genetic, a parent can pass them down to their children.

Increased memory loss, confusion, and shortened attention span are common AD symptoms. Others include impaired reading, writing, math skills, reasoning, and judgment.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a disease linked to abnormal protein deposits in the brain. The protein, known as alpha-synuclein, forms into balloon-like clumps called Lewy bodies. They affect and trigger changes in brain chemicals, causing cognitive changes.

An estimated one million people in the U.S. have LBD, many of whom are at least 50 years old.

Some AD and Lewy Body dementia warning signs are similar, such as memory problems. However, LBD patients may experience visual hallucinations early on. By contrast, AD patients usually get these hallucinations only after several years.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia (VD), like AD and LBD, also causes a decline in cognitive skills. The chief difference is that VD is due to conditions affecting the brain’s blood vessels.

Problems with the brain’s blood vessels can occur if they get blocked. That can deprive the brain’s regions of oxygen and nutrients. Ultimately, it can result in severe cognition and brain function impairment.

Patients with VD often exhibit signs that mimic those of Alzheimer’s disease. However, they may be experiencing similar symptoms because they also have AD.

Mixed Dementia

As if having one type of dementia isn’t bad enough, some patients may have two or more. An example is the above-mentioned vascular dementia occurring with Alzheimer’s disease. Others may have AD coexisting with LBD, while some even exhibit signs of all three dementias.

Beware of These Different Types of Dementia

Granted, the symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, may not be deadly. However, having dementia can still contribute to mortality. For instance, AD-related deaths in the U.S. increased by over 145% between 2000 and 2019.

That’s enough reason never to ignore the signs of the different types of dementia in the elderly. So if you have an aging parent exhibiting symptoms, please take them to a neurologist ASAP.

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