There are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, 42,000 of those people are under the age of 65. Additionally, 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia. This year 225,000 will develop dementia – that is 1 every 3 minutes.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a term used to describe a variety of progressive neurological disorders affecting the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, however, there are many different variations of dementia. Some people can have a combination of different types of dementia. Regardless of the type of dementia diagnosed, people experience dementia in their own way, therefore the signs and symptoms for each person can vary.
Who gets dementia?
Anyone can get dementia, although some people are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Dementia is a result of damage to the brain cells, which can happen for example by a series of strokes. The damage then interferes with the ability for brain cells to communicate with one another.
The brain has different areas, and if the damaged cells in one area cannot communicate properly, then this will affect basic things such as thinking, behaviour and feelings.
An example of this is: If someone has damaged brain cells in their temporal lobes, they would have difficulty with language. If someone has damaged brain cells in their occipital lobes, they would have problems with vision.
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Types of Dementia
There are many different types of dementia, some are more common than others; Alzheimer’s Named after the doctor who first identified the disease, Alois Alzheimer. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
In Alzheimer’s disease, proteins build up in the brain and form structures called plaques and tangles. This then causes loss of connections between nerve cells and ultimately leads to the death of nerve cells and finally the loss of brain tissue.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common and earliest signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s are lapses in memory, in particular recalling recent events and learning new information. Memory loss with Alzheimer’s disease interferes with day-to-day life. Many sufferers struggle with simple tasks such as:
- – Remembering where they placed items around the house
- – Struggling to find the right word in a conversation
- – Forgetting recent events or conversations
- – Forgetting appointments or anniversaries
Once the condition begins deteriorating, other signs and symptoms can present:
- – Visuospatial skills (issues judging distance and seeing objects in three dimensions)
- – Difficulty carrying out basic tasks or trying to solve problems
- – Struggling to remember conversations or repeating the same conversation
- – Trouble handling money and paying bills
- – Wandering and getting lost
- – Mood and personality changes
- – Increased anxiety and/or aggression
What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
The biggest risk factor of Alzheimer’s is age, mainly affecting people over the age of 65. Above this age, people risk developing Alzheimer’s doubles about every 5 years. There are about twice as many women as men over 65 that have Alzheimer’s.
Sporadic CJD, normally affects people over 40 and is the most common form of the disease. It’s estimated that it affects about 1 in a million people each year.
What causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?
It is not known what causes sporadic CJD, however, research has led medical professionals to believe it is not an inherited disease. Additionally, it cannot transmit from person to person.
Signs and symptoms
Early symptoms include minor lapses in memory, changes in mood, and loss of interest. Within weeks a person may complain about being clumsy and feeling muddled, become unsteady at walking and have slow or slurred speech.
Alcohol-related brain damage
Alcohol-related brain damage is a disorder caused by drinking too much alcohol regularly over several years. The term ARBD covers several different conditions including alcohol dementia. ARBD mainly affects people who drink more than 50 units a week and a lack of vitamin B1.
Mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition where someone has minor issues with cognition. Approximately between 5% to 20% of people 65 and over have MCI. It is not a type of dementia, however a person that has MCI is more likely to develop dementia later on.
A person with MCI has mild problems with some of the following; memory, reasoning, attention, language and visual depth perception.
Vascular dementia is a result of damage to the blood vessels in the brain which then reduces the blood flow to brain cells which affects how they work.
Signs and symptoms
Vascular dementia often has similar signs and symptoms to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
- Communication problems
- Memory loss
- Mood, personality or behavioural changes
- Feeling disoriented and confused
- Difficulty walking and keeping balance
There can be more specific symptoms and they may differ depending on the part of the brain affected. These symptoms may include, slower thinking, changes in personality, movement problems, stability and bladder problems. Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, affecting up to 20 in every 100 cases.
HIV related cognitive impairment
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes infection on the body which weakens the immune system, as a result, this makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections and diseases. People with HIV related cognitive impairment may have issues with memory and thinking. The signs and symptoms are usually mild, and dementia is much rarer. Over the years people with HIV that developed dementia have gone down from 20-30 per cent to around 2 per cent.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) accounts for 10-15 percent of all cases of dementia. DLB of often diagnosed wrongly and misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s. Lewy Bodies are tiny protein deposits that appear in the nerve cells in the brain. People that have a Lewy Body disorder can have issues with movement and changes in mental abilities at the same time. Around 100,000 people in the UK tend to have this type of dementia.
Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD), is the most commonly diagnosed form dementia for people under age 60. FTD represents a group of brain disorders caused by degeneration of the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain.
When the frontal lobes get damaged, it can affect the sufferers behaviour, problem solving, planning and controlling emotions.
People diagnosed with dementia before they were 65 are often called ‘younger people with dementia or as having young-onset dementia. An estimated 42,000 young people have received a diagnosis for dementia in the UK.
Signs and symptoms Young-onset dementia is most likely to cause problems with movement, walking, coordination and balance.
Rare forms of dementia:
- Corti Cobasal degeneration (CBD)
- Huntington’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Niemann-Pick disease type C
- Progressive Supranuclear palsy
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Parkinson’s disease
CBD for Dementia
Over the years, many articles have appeared deeming CBD to be a preventative and a possible treatment for dementia. Studies have shown that cannabis can potentially help the neurogenesis process (making new neural tissue).With dementia, neural tissue is on a course of rapid destruction, leading to debilitating neurological effects such as memory loss, cognitive loss and severe changes in personality. Research has further revealed that the medical benefits of cannabis oil can slow down the progression of these devastating effects, if it stimulates neural tissue.The information on dementia and CBD continues to grow with new CBD and dementia research. In further recent studies, CBD helps to reduce or remove the impact of inflammation, oxygen build-up and brain cell decline.
One study, in particular, showed that CBD not only helps dementia but also helps many of the symptoms associated with dementia. Please click this link to read the full study. The three ways CBD work to improve the health outcome for people with dementia are; by reducing oxygen build up, by working as a brain stimulant and neuroprotectant. In terms of reducing the symptoms of dementia like depression and irritability, CBD has shown that it can reduce stress and anxiety in the person with dementia as well as reduce the decay in memory and brain functions.
What do the studies say?
“Parkinson’s disease (PD): A survey in PD patients (age 45–83 years) suggested that 25% have used cannabis to treat symptoms. In 45% of these cannabis users PD symptoms such as rigidity, tremor, bradykinesia and dyskinesia improved”.
“The transition of findings from bench to bedside and the extension of results from small clinical trials should be on the research agenda for the near future. Because treatment strategies for dementia are so preliminary at the current state of knowledge and the need for a cure is so desperate, it is worth pursuing the quest for one or more cannabinoid compounds in the field”.
The Endocannabinoid System
Our endocannabinoid system is the most important physiological system. Establishing and maintaining human health, it’s made up of receptors all over your body. When cannabinoids stimulate the receptors, scientists believe our bodies communicate more.
Studies on the ECS have found that it plays a role in many diseases. As the ECS system helps bring balance to the body. It’s no surprise that scientists have observed changes in ECS activity in many diseases.
Everything from neurodegenerative disorders to rheumatoid arthritis. Even cancer has shown changes in endocannabinoid levels and greater receptor expression. This suggests that the ECS may be an effective target for restoring balance in the body.
The endocannabinoids within the body help to regulate functions of the body. These include our mood, pain, sleep and appetite. Cannabinoids stimulate receptors in the body and brain, helping them to communicate more with each other.
What is CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant, in total, there is upwards of 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.
One common compound found in the cannabis plant is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). THC contains psychoactive properties and this is the compound responsible for the ‘high’ feeling associated with cannabis.
In terms of CBD oil and other CBD products sold in the UK, you will not get high as they contain no, to very little THC. In addition, many CBD products come from hemp, which is a variety of the cannabis plant that produces less than 0.3 percent THC.
As CBD products generally do not have any psychoactive properties, you can buy it in the UK as a ‘food supplement’.