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Dementia is a silent killer and a heartbreaking disease, but as time marches on, developments in science and research bring new information to light. The more we know about this condition, the better equipped we are to deal with it when the diagnosis arises--and, hopefully, find a cure once and for all so no one else suffers at the ruthless hand of this terrible illness.
Dementia frequently afflicts the aging, robbing them of their memories and mental faculties beyond what is normal in the aging process. It not only hurts the person with the diagnosis, it also hurts the friends and family who love them yet are no longer able to connect with them in the same way.
So, what can you do about dementia? First, we need to look at the facts. At this point, dementia is on the rise rather than on the decline. But there may be things you can do and steps you can take to decrease your risk of dementia. We’ll take a look at possible treatments for dementia as well as dementia medications in the article below. Read on to learn more.
Dementia is a growing health problem worldwide
The World Health Organization defines dementia as “an umbrella term for several diseases affecting memory, other cognitive abilities and behaviour that interfere significantly with a person’s ability to maintain their activities of daily living.” A person with dementia experiences declined levels of functioning in their thinking, memory, behavior, and ability to perform everyday, routine activities, including things like eating, using the restroom, or looking after their own hygiene.
In a recent report on dementia, which includes a new guide for caregivers, the WHO explains, “Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not a normal part of ageing. WHO is working very closely with Member States and other relevant stakeholders to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers, while decreasing the impact of dementia on communities and countries.”
While the hope with every health condition is that we see progress and less disease with each passing year, this is not necessarily the case when it comes to dementia. The bad news is that the WHO says that there are nearly 10 million new cases of dementia every year--and unfortunately, that number is expected to triple by 2050. Currently, dementia is the diagnosis for approximately 50 million people around the world.
Where does dementia come from? A variety of injuries and diseases can result in dementia. A stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, aging, and other conditions can all lead to dementia. Dementia affects the brain by deteriorating a person’s existing ability to think, understand, and use logic; plus, when a person has dementia, they often require around-the-clock health care because they are no longer capable of taking care of themselves.
Whether this means they receive care from organizations or family members, the condition puts great stress on not only the dementia patient but everyone around them, too. It’s costly--around $818 billion, in fact--not to mention time-consuming, and often quite difficult emotionally for everyone involved. It is also the 5th leading cause of death.
Could blood pressure and inflammation contribute to dementia?
A recent article published in Medical News Today asks, Can blood pressure drugs help reduce dementia risk? The scientific community has recently started to examine the possible links between blood pressure medications and dementia.
The article reads, “A large new study has found a link between taking various kinds of blood pressure-lowering drugs and a lower risk of dementia among older adults, adding to the discussion around the link between cognitive decline and high blood pressure. … Many recent studies have linked hypertension with a higher risk of dementia. … Now, a large study that used data from the Disease Analyzer database — which is a large German database that collects and stores the health information of millions of people — shows that among older adults who follow antihypertensive treatments, there is a lower incidence of dementia.”
This development seems promising. If adults could take blood pressure medications to decrease their risk of dementia, this could be huge news for the medical community and could help millions of people. A study showed that people who took certain antihypertensive drugs, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin II receptor blockers, seemed to have lower incidences of dementia.
Another recent study suggests a link between inflammation and dementia. An article published on Alzheimers.net states that “participants [in a recent study] who had chronic inflammation also had the most white matter damage in the brain. White matter is responsible for carrying information between nerve cells and damage can result in cognitive decline and lead to dementia.”
So, while it probably is not necessarily true that blood pressure or inflammation causes or contributes to dementia, it may be true that the drugs prescribed for these conditions could present helpful solutions to dementia sufferers. In addition, it would be wise to do what you can to lower inflammation in your body as much as possible. Untreated chronic inflammation could potentially lead to an increased risk of developing dementia.
Dementia medications: Aricept, Exelon, Namenda, and more
There is no true treatment or solution for dementia, and sadly, there is no such thing as a cure for dementia. Once a person receives a diagnosis of dementia, the disease slowly progresses and gets worse over time, though the speed of a person’s decline with dementia can vary.
However, there are medications that can help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to dementia. These include cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, and they are prescribed to help ease the symptoms and delay the worsening of the disease. While they are not a cure, they can improve the lives of people affected.
Cholinesterase inhibitors include Aricept (donepezil is the generic equivalent), galantamine (under the brand names Razadyne, Razadyne ER, and Reminyl), and rivastigmine (often found as Exelon). Benefits of taking cholinesterase inhibitors can include better concentration and memory, less anxiety, and improved motivation for Alzheimer’s patients, and sometimes they can even continue on with their regular activities, at least for a time.
Memantine, or Namenda, is for more advanced cases of Alzheimer’s and may be able to improve memory, language, attention, and reasoning in patients who are prescribed it. These medications do have side effects, but if they can stave off the encroachment of these terrible brain diseases even for a few months, many people find it’s worth it to take them.
As mentioned before, research has shown that antihypertensive drugs may decrease the risk of developing dementia. In addition, Enbrel--a cancer agent--may be able to help with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Other options include the drugs mentioned above as well as the Exelon patch (rivastigmine), and a few others. Check out our other featured products to learn more.
When exploring the options in the world of prescription drugs for dementia, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the information and options out there. The price of all this may also be unclear and you may hear a lot of TV ads that make the whole process more complicated. However, there’s a bit of good news in all of the doom and gloom: check out our article Thanks to Trump, Prescription Drug TV Ads Now Have to Disclose Prices to learn more.
Please see the table we have assembled below to compare and contrast dementia medications including Aricept (donepezil), the Exelon patch (rivastigmine), Namenda (memantine), and Razadyne ER.
Table 1: Dementia medications manufacturer and pricing sheet
Other treatments for dementia
While there is no treatment for dementia, there are steps you can take to help lower your risk and improve your symptoms if you do have dementia.
Things like the Mediterranean diet may be able to stave off dementia. Leading a healthy lifestyle and eating nutritious foods may help to prevent dementia or at least slow its development.
There may even be other drugs that could prevent dementia. A recent article published by The Washington Post reveals something shocking and asks an important question: Pfizer had clues its blockbuster drug could prevent Alzheimer’s. Why didn’t it tell the world? Alzheimer’s is one of the leading diseases that ends up as dementia; in other words, preventing Alzheimer’s could mean preventing dementia.
The author of the article writes, “A team of researchers inside Pfizer made a startling find in 2015: The company’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis therapy Enbrel, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 64 percent. The results were from an analysis of hundreds of thousands of insurance claims. Verifying that the drug would actually have that effect in people would require a costly clinical trial — and after several years of internal discussion, Pfizer opted against further investigation and chose not to make the data public, the company confirmed.”
Whether this was the morally right thing to do is up for debate, and is understandably quite controversial in scientific circles. Some say it was right for them not to encourage research into dead ends, while others insist that they should have shared whatever information or implications they had because even a small potential of alleviating Alzheimer’s would be worth exploring.
Tips to avoid dementia: How to reverse your risk of dementia
If you are still young and healthy, the possibility of dementia may seem far off. However, it’s never too early to take steps to ward off dementia.
Incorporate things like eating a healthy diet, checking your blood pressure regularly, embracing the power of music, setting up financial support for your later years, and taking care of your mental health if you want to lower your risk of dementia as much as possible. In recent years, tools like tech gadgets, virtual reality, and senior villages for dementia patients have also emerged as innovative ways to care for those with dementia.
Believe it or not, taking care of your mental health is also an important part of preventing dementia. Our emotional states actually have quite a major effect on our physical health, and this includes our potential for developing dementia.
An article published in the Toronto Sun shares the results of a recent study: “Scientists have long studied links between depression and dementia, but could a person’s cognitive decline actually be caused by the drugs used to treat a mood disorder? A new study suggests that people taking antidepressants in middle or old age could have triple the risk of developing dementia. Researchers found that the rate of dementia was 3.4 times higher among people who took antidepressants after the age of 50.”
In other words, getting treated for depression is a wise plan to take care of your physical health. The more healing from depression you can experience, the lower your likelihood of having to take antidepressants which could increase your risk of dementia.
According to the WHO, possible risk factors for dementia include low levels of physical activity, smoking, a poor diet, alcohol misuse, insufficient or impaired cognitive reserve, lack of social activity, unhealthy weight gain, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, depression, and hearing loss.
If you take care of those elements of your life, you are doing all that you can to make sure you do not develop dementia, or you at least stave off its onset in order to live your longest, fullest life possible.
Skye Sherman is a professional writer who has been published in numerous local and international outlets. She has also worked for a wellness company and is very familiar with the healthcare industry. She holds a degree from a Florida university.
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