The onset of dementia is usually prevalent in people aging 65 years or above. In context for dementia, “younger people” or having young-onset of dementia implies that a person less than 65 years of age is showing symptoms of dementia. Since people traditionally retire at 65, this is the age used; however, this age does not have any biological significance and is an artificial cut-off point.
Dementia is not a specific disease rather that it is a set of symptoms associated with at least two impaired brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgment. Dementia may result as a result of a head trauma, injury to the brain, Huntington’s disease or a tumor.
Then there is mixed dementia in which the signs and symptoms of more than one form of dementia occur simultaneously. The most common type of mixed dementia is characterized by protein deposits that are typically seen in those with Alzheimer’s disease which is the most prevalent form of dementia.
In a report published by the Alzheimer’s Society, the London School of Economics and King’s College Institute of Psychiatry, Jeremy Hughes the chief executive of the society said “For too long dementia has been perceived as a natural part of ageing which only affects the oldest of the old in our society. The risk of developing dementia does increase with age, but the reality is that dementia is caused by diseases of the brain that don’t discriminate.”
As per the report, twice as many people in the UK have dementia before the age of 65 than was previously thought, accounting for roughly 5% of all cases of dementia. Doctors often miss symptoms of dementia in younger people, assuming they are too young to be suffering from the condition. Dementia cases have been known to occur among those in their 50s, 40s, and even in their 30s.
As more doctors are recognizing the possibility of younger people suffering from dementia, the following reasons have come to light:
Some research suggests environmental factors are playing a role in dementia becoming common in young people. An article in the Daily Mail states that there may be a “silent epidemic” which is increasing rates of young on-set of dementia in a short time.
Colin Pritchard, a researcher from Bournemouth University, said “The environmental changes in the last 20 years have seen increases in the human environment of petro-chemicals – air transport, quadrupling of motor vehicles, insecticides and so on … [the rate of increase in incidence of dementia in young people] suggests a silent or even a “hidden” epidemic, in which environmental factors must play a major part.”
2) People with learning disabilities
Sadly, people who suffer from learning disabilities are at a greater risk of younger onset of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s. One in ten people with a learning disability develops dementia at a younger age, as per some studies.
Those suffering from Down’s syndrome are at a greater risk. One in 50 people develop the condition aged 30-39, one in ten aged 40-49 and one in three people may develop Alzheimer’s in their 50s.
3) Amyloid build-up
Amyloid build-up is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, that is commonly found in the brains of seniors who have the disease. A recent study has found evidence of amyloid build-up in the brains of people as young as 20 years old.
The toxic amyloid build-up was evident irrelevant of age and health but as per the study, it was not possible to know if the younger adults may develop Alzheimer at a young age or even later.
Despite the prevalence of dementia, it is still not known for sure what factors cause dementia, nor does it have a cure. Similarly, though the incidence of dementia in younger people is increasing, no one cause has been identified, though it is understood that there are various risk factors that increase the probability of it its incidence.
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