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Does Modern Life Cause Early-Onset Dementia?

Does Modern Life Cause Early-Onset Dementia?

     Dementia affects millions of people worldwide and in the US, there are presently an estimated five million people suffering from age-related dementia.  If you are in America and you are over the age of 85, you have a one in two chance of developing some sort of dementia[1].  It is the sixth leading cause of death[2].  In 2015, nearly one in five Medicare dollars will be spent on dementia and Alzheimer’s will cost $226 billion.  By 2050, that cost is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion[3].  It’s a terrifying fact. 

     Dementia is an umbrella term for disorders of mental processes caused by brain diseases or injury.  There are a number of different types of dementia but by far the most prevalent and most well-known is Alzheimer’s, which currently accounts for around 70% of all dementia diagnoses[4].  What’s worrying is that dementia diagnoses are increasing as the population ages, as are deaths from neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.  What’s more worrying, though, is that dementia is affecting individuals at a younger and younger age. 

 Dementia and the Youth of Today

     Whilst previously, ‘early-onset dementia’ referred to people in their mid to late 60s, it is now starting to refer to people diagnosed as young as 30 and 40.  That’s a frightening concept, and whilst some claim that it’s the result of living longer and being better at curing other diseases (because, they claim, everybody has to die of something), Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University in the UK is not so sure.  Pritchard and his team of researchers examined the mortality data from the World Health Organization and looked at the changing pattern of neurological deaths across 21 western countries, from as far back as 1979[5].  What they discovered was startling. 

 

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