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As we age, our brains change, but Alzheimer's disease and related dementias are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, up to 40% of dementia cases may be prevented or delayed. It helps to understand what's normal and what's not when it comes to brain health. As many as 7% of adults aged 60 and older suffer from dementia. Along with problems with memory, language, and decision-making abilities, dementia can cause other symptoms. These include changes in mood, such as increased irritability, depression, and anxiety. They also include changes in personality and behaviour. Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It includes the loss of cognitive functioning thinking, remembering, learning, and reasoning and behavioural abilities to the extent that it interferes with a person's quality of life and activities.
Many of us get a little more forgetful as we get older. Most people will need a bit longer to remember things, get distracted more easily or struggle to multi-task as well as they once did. This may become noticeable particularly from middle age - usually taken as during our 40s, 50s and early 60s - onwards. These changes are normal, but they can be a nuisance and at times frustrating. However, you may worry that these things are an early sign of dementia. It's important not to worry too much about this. For most people, these changes will be the result of normal ageing and won't be down to dementia. The table below lists some of the possible changes due to both normal ageing and early dementia. However, it is important to remember that everyone is different and not everyone with dementia will have all of these changes. Other conditions may also account for some of them. For example, a person with depression can have problems making decisions, get confused easily and appear withdrawn or irritable.
Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of biological ageing. Further, dementia does not exclusively affect older people – young onset dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 years) accounts for up to 9% of cases. Studies show that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by being physically active, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additional risk factors include depression, social isolation, low educational attainment, cognitive inactivity and air pollution.