Believe it or not, there once was a time where researchers almost unanimously agreed that dementia, and the side-effects of dementia, were just part of the aging process. Now, it’s a common belief that these diseases are in fact not part of the aging process. We still have much to learn about dementia, but researchers are beginning to develop an understanding of its stages. Here is some information you need to know regarding the stages of dementia, the different types of dementia, and ways to potentially prevent dementia.
What Are The Stages of Dementia?
There are many things regarding dementia that we are still unsure about, but one thing researchers do know is that symptoms grow worse over time (1). The average person with Alzheimer’s dementia will live four to eight years after diagnosis. But, it is possible to live as long as 20 years depending on other factors.
There is a stage known as the preclinical stage, where Alzheimer’s begins to cause changes in the brain before any signs of the disease. Understanding the stages of the disease allows us to better understand how the disease works. It also prepares you for what to expect if you or a loved one has received a positive diagnosis.
Early Stage Dementia
The early stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are regarded as mild. During this stage, a person suffering from the disease will still be able to function independently but will lose some cognitive function. The early signs of dementia may not be all that apparent during this stage but family and close friends will begin to notice that something isn’t right. Here are some common side-effects of the early stages:
- Remembering names or dates
- Difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings
- Forgetting material that was just read or spoken
- Losing or misplacing valuables
- Difficulties staying organized
During this stage, it’s smart to put legal, financial, and end-of-life plans in place because the person with dementia will be able to participate in decision-making.
Middle- Stage Dementia
The middle stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are regarded as moderate. This stage can last for many years and as the stage progresses, someone with the disease may need regular assistance. Around this stage, the nerve cells in the brain become damaged, which can lead to serious issues. Here are some of the symptoms of the middle stages:
- Forgetting personal history or information
- Feeling moody or withdrawn from social or challenging situations
- Visible confusion about where someone is or what day it is
- Requiring help choosing proper clothing
- Changes in sleep patterns such as sleeping during the day and being restless at night
- An increased risk of getting lost
- Behavioral changes
During this stage, someone with the disease will still be able to participate in daily activities, but they may need assistance. If you are helping a family member or close friend during this stage, it’s important to develop an understanding of what they can and can’t do. This will help you know what they need help with.
Late - Stage Dementia
Late-stage dementia, otherwise known as end-stage dementia, is classified as severe. Individuals in this stage of the disease will require regular assistance and may be unable to perform regular tasks. As memory and cognitive skills worsen, significant personality changes may take place. Here is some of what to expect during late-stage dementia:
- Around-the-clock assistance required with daily personal care
- No awareness of recent experiences or current surroundings
- Difficulty walking, sitting, and swallowing food
- Difficulty communicating
- More vulnerable to infections, mainly pneumonia
The person living with Alzheimer’s may not be able to initiate engagement as much during the late stage, but he or she can still benefit from interaction in ways that are appropriate, like listening to relaxing music or receiving reassurance through gentle touch.
What Are The Different Types of Dementia?
Dementia is not a single disease but instead a definition that encompasses many different diseases (2). Each of these diseases has similar dementia symptoms, but there are some differences. Here are the five main types of dementia:
- Alzheimer’s Disease - This is the most common dementia type. It is the consequence of an abnormal shrinkage of the brain.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies - This disease has symptoms similar to Parkinson’s such as tremors and stiffness. It also comes with sleeping disorders and vivid hallucinations.
- Vascular Dementia - A stroke or vascular accident can cause Alzheimer-like symptoms such as memory disorders and bad decision making.
- Frontotemporal Dementia - This disease affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain which can cause a loss of functionality and behavior.
- Mixed Dementia - A person with this disorder is suffering from two different types of dementia.
A doctor will be able to provide you with an accurate diagnosis. It’s important to seek professional help because each type of dementia will require specific treatments
What Is Dementia Life Expectancy?
The average life expectancy of those diagnosed with dementia is about four and a half years after receiving a positive diagnosis. However, life expectancy can be contingent on many different factors, mainly age. Those who are diagnosed before the age of 70 usually live for 10 years, even longer in some circumstances.
Overall, women live slightly longer than men after a diagnosis of dementia, with a life expectancy of 4.6 years compared to men’s 4.1 years. Frailer dementia patients also die sooner than healthier ones. But being married, living at home, and even a degree of mental decline were not found to have a big impact on survival.
Can You Prevent Dementia?
Not knowing what exactly causes dementia can make it difficult to definitively say how to avoid the disease. However, researchers do believe that healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent cognitive decline. Here are some things that you can do to help prevent dementia:
- Exercise - Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to four days per week
- Sleep properly - There are mounds of evidence that show improved sleep can help prevent dementia
- Stay active mentally - Learning new things can stimulate the brain, which can improve cognitive function
- Stay social - Social contact is believed to help prevent Alzheimer’s
- Moderate alcohol intake - One drink per day for women and one or two for men can reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s
While it’s still not 100% proven that these lifestyle changes will prevent dementia it is recommended that you live the healthiest life possible. We do know that healthy lifestyles can prevent other chronic problems.
Supplements Can Help
One substance that can help prevent cognitive dissonance, as well as other aging side-effects, is spermidine. This is because spermidine helps induce something called autophagy. This is the body’s process of replacing old and potentially damaged cell parts with newer, healthier ones, resulting in healthier cells. Autophagy literally means ‘self-eat.’
This process helps keep you feeling and looking young while also dramatically lowering your chances of developing aging diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. While it is possible to get your recommended daily intake of spermidine through your diet, it’s recommended to take supplements so you ensure you get the right dose. Simply taking your supplements with your dinner is a great way to remember to take spermidine supplements every night.