In Singapore, it is estimated that one in 10 people aged above 60 has dementia. This translates to about 82,000 people, with the number expecting to rise to more than 100,000 by 2030. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of dementia and some ways to reduce the risk of getting it.
What is Dementia?
Dementia refers to a group of symptoms that affects one’s ability to think, remember, engage in social activities and perform daily tasks. Contrary to common misperception, dementia is not just about forgetfulness or a part and parcel of normal ageing. Dementia is an umbrella term for a wide spectrum of brain disorder.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia where the brain cells degenerate, causing a decline in cognitive, behavioural and social skills that affect the person’s ability to function independently.
It is important to note that dementia is a progressive condition, and there is gradual progression of dementia – mild, moderate and severe.
What are the symptoms of dementia?
These are some warning signs of dementia:
- Poor or decreased judgement – difficulty in making appropriate decisions, for example, wearing light clothing in cold weather, poor safety awareness or unable to manage money.
- Forgetfulness that affects day-to-day activities – difficulty in recalling information that they have just learned, forgetting events, dates or appointments, etc., and could not remember them at a later time
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks – difficulty in handling tasks that they used to do regularly, for instance, having trouble remembering and sequencing how to prepare a meal, forgetting how to shower properly.
- Problem with communication – may forget what they are saying or have difficulty understanding what somebody else has just said. They may also have trouble reading or writing.
- Misplacing things – unable to remember where they have left everyday objects, and some may become suspicious that others have stolen their things
- Difficulty planning or solving problems – difficulty in following a plan, instructions or directions and facing challenges with numbers and managing a budget, etc.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities – losing interest in the hobbies and sports that they used to love or stop meeting up with friends and other people
- Confusion with time and place – getting confused on when is day time and night time and getting lost and disoriented even in the neighbourhood they are familiar with
- Changes in personality – behaving out of character, becoming suspicious, withdrawn and distrustful of family and friends whom they are closed to.
- Changes in mood and personality – experiencing rapid mood swings, for example, from calm to tears suddenly and for no apparent reason.
If you observe any of these signs in yourself or your loved ones, it is advisable to speak to your doctor. Early detection and treatment can help provide relief to some of the symptoms and manage the condition better.
Reducing the Risk of Dementia
Here are some ways to help reduce the risk of dementia:
- Stay mentally active – stimulate your brain by reading, learning something new or playing games, such as chess, board games and puzzles. Consider delaying retirement, when possible.
- Be socially engaged – socialising promotes communications and build relationships that could improve mental wellbeing. Most importantly keep up with your interests.
- Exercise regularly – staying fit can help to improve your physical wellbeing and have both short term and long term health benefits
- Eat healthily – eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to reduce your risk of dementia, as well as other health conditions
- Manage your medical conditions – monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels and keep them within the acceptable range. If you are taking medications, be dutiful in taking them so as to avoid complications
- Don’t smoke – smoking increases your risk of health conditions
- Avoid alcohol – excessive consumption affects your health
A healthy lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of illnesses and diseases, including dementia. It can also enhance both your physical and mental wellbeing and positively impact your quality of life. So, start by taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle today.
- Nearly 3 in 4 persons with dementia in Singapore feel ashamed, rejected: Study, CNA, 29 April 2019
- Alzheimer’s disease, Mayo Clinic
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- 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Association (United States)
- How to reduce your risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s Society (United Kingdom)
- 5 Ways You Can Reduce Your Risk of Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease Association (Singapore)
- Reduce Your Risk of Developing Dementia, Health Hub
- Lifestyle Changes that Prevent or Slow the Progression of Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias, Dementia Care Central, 1 September 2018