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You’re not too young to think about your brain health

July 05, 2024
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Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month is recognized every June to help spread the word about dementia-related conditions and show support for the millions of lives impacted. This important month isn’t just about discussing the signs and impacts of dementia. It’s also the perfect time to remind ourselves just how amazing the human brain is and to stop and think about all the things we can do to keep it healthy. Even though there’s currently no cure for dementia-related conditions, there are steps we can take to reduce our risk.  

What Is Young-Onset Dementia? 

The statistics are startling: Alzheimer’s Disease International projects dementia cases to increase from 55 million people worldwide in 2020 to 139 million people by 2050. Because dementia is associated with getting older, it’s easy to assume only the senior population needs to be concerned. However, of the estimated 6 million Americans currently dealing with Alzheimer’s dementia, about 200,000 are under the age of 65. 

Dementia is a progressive loss of cognitive function severe enough to impair the ability to perform daily tasks. Young-onset dementia, also known as early-onset dementia, is used to describe any form of dementia that develops in people under the age of 65. 

While memory loss is the first obvious sign of dementia in seniors, it isn’t always noticeable in younger people. And although many of the same problems can occur, young-onset dementia poses an entirely new set of challenges, because people in their 40s and 50s are more likely to be working, raising families and enjoying an active life, never giving dementia a second thought.

Dementia in young people can be more difficult to recognize, but there are certain symptoms to watch for: 

  • Inability to understand visual information, such as when judging distance

  • Noticeable changes in behavior, including aggression, disinhibition and lack of empathy

  • Problems with decision-making, judgment and planning 

  • Social withdrawal and social behavior issues

  • Struggling with words or language

5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

The bad news: some risk factors for dementia, such as genetics, you can’t do much about. If you have a history of dementia in your family, talk to your doctor about tests that can identify early stages of cognitive decline. 

The good news: most risks are modifiable. Hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, diabetes, depression, smoking, hearing loss and binge drinking are all known risk factors for young-onset dementia that you can take steps to improve. 

  • Get moving: Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and a healthy brain. 

  • Be social: Interaction with other people is a healthy workout for the brain and keeps it working right. Be curious, learn new things, spend time on a hobby and hang out with friends. 

  • Have your hearing checked: Moderate to severe hearing loss is not only frustrating, it also raises the risk for dementia. If you’re having trouble hearing, see your doctor. 

  • Control your blood pressure: Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, and many don’t even know they have it. Take time to get your pressure checked. 

  • Work on quitting: If you drink, do so in moderation, and if you smoke, consider quitting. Quitting smoking improves your health and not only reduces your risk of dementia, but also your risk of heart disease, cancer and lung disease.

This June, do something kind for your cognition and take time to think about your brain health. Reduce your risk by taking care of your health and find peace of mind knowing the specialists at St. Luke’s Health are creating healthy communities by providing comprehensive care for the whole person—mind, body and spirit. 

Our specialists can identify symptoms of young onset dementia and help you find ways to reduce your risk. Find a doctor at SLH today to get started.

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