When should you start screening for dementia? If you are an adult of any age, then the answer is now. Once considered to be a concern for only the elderly, we have learned that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can strike are virtually any age.
We will explore a few of the conditions known to occur at ages that are not typically associated with dementia and similar cognitive impairments. The point is to highlight the importance of participating in regular cognitive screening beginning at an early age, and to show you how easy it can be to achieve.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
The most commonly acknowledged form of Alzheimer’s disease (late-onset) is usually diagnosed after the age of 60, but there is an early-onset version that can develop decades earlier. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia among younger people but only represents under 10% of all Alzheimer’s cases. The symptoms closely resemble the late-onset type, but with more movement issues. One important distinction between the two forms of Alzheimer’s disease is that there appears to be a much stronger genetic component to the early-onset type.
There are many types of vascular dementia, but the term generally refers to dementia symptoms arising from impairments in the brain’s blood supply. The blood provides brain cells with essential nutrients and oxygen, and interruptions in its supply can lead to neurodegeneration (cell damage and death). Vascular dementia can occur at virtually any time over the lifespan. People with a higher risk of cardiovascular conditions (due to obesity, diet, disease, genetics, or another influence) are the most prone to developing vascular dementia.
Unlike the majority of other dementia types, frontotemporal dementia is more common in younger people than seniors. Less is known about this form of the condition than others. It is associated with degeneration in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, but other details are scarce. Several forms of the condition exist and they are commonly categorized by the type of symptoms that are most prominent (ex: behavioral or language production). There is some evidence that frontotemporal dementia may be genetic in up to one-third of all existing cases.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy bodies are found in about 7% of all young-onset dementia patients. These protein accumulations are associated with symptoms that are often described as a mix between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Hallucinations and movement disorders are more common with Lewy body dementia than other forms of the disorder. It is also possible to have a combination of Lewy bodies with another type of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.
Check Now, Check Often
In addition to the types discussed above, there are a variety of rare dementias that can afflict young people. The bottom line is that the risk of developing dementia is real for all adults and not just seniors. As is true with all types of dementia, early detection is critical to ensure the best possible outcomes for everyone involved. It guarantees the most time to be correctly diagnosed, receive treatments, and plan for the future. The BrainTest® app is a simple tool that allows for the quick and easy monitoring of cognitive health at home. It is a great resource for anyone who may be at risk of developing dementia, and as we have discussed, this includes people of a much younger age than most people may realize.