Dementia and related conditions are horrible in their own right. But they’re even scarier when they’re happening to people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. The New York Times has an interesting look into that world.
“While most of the 5.3 million Americans who are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are over 65, some 200,000 are younger than 65 and develop serious memory and thinking problems far earlier in life than expected.
“Young-onset dementia is a particularly disheartening diagnosis because it affects individuals in the prime years,” Dr. David S. Knopman, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., wrote in a July 2021 editorial in JAMA Neurology. Many of the afflicted are in their 40s and 50s, midcareer, hardly ready to retire and perhaps still raising a family.”
Chief among the causes of early-onset dementia is a condition called Lewy Body dementia (LBd), where abnormal protein deposits on the brain cause dysfunction. As with most other dementia and dementia-adjacent conditions, the exact causes and mechanisms of the disease are not fully understood, but LBd is notable for how many of its sufferers are younger people. Most of us think of dementia as an “old person disease”, but it can strike people of any age. While it may not be preventable, the worst of the symptoms can be treated if discovered early enough. Even younger people who find themselves suffering from frequent memory loss, severe navigational dysfunction, or “brain fog” should consult with a doctor and get checked out. It likely will not be LBd, but it could be a host of other neurological or vascular conditions, and knowing about the disease is the first step towards treating it.
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