[쉬운 신경질환사전]is a series of articles designed by neurologist Hanseung Lee (Herb Neurology Clinic) and Hidak on the topic of neurological diseases in everyday life. Common but vague symptoms such as ‘eyelid tremors’, ‘dizziness’, ‘numbness of hands and feet’, and ‘various headaches’ are explained in an easy-to-understand manner for the general public.
Dementia is one of the diseases that people of all ages fear. This is because it is a disease that can make everyone unhappy, not only for yourself, but also for your family, those around you, and even the medical staff you are treating. Recently, the term dementia has been referred to as ‘cognitive disorder’ or ‘cognitive dysfunction’ because it is said to be negative. In Japan, where dementia among the elderly has already become a major social problem due to entering a super-aged society, dementia is called ‘cognitive disease’.
Actually, my major is dementia. The ‘Korean version of the geriatric sign connection test’, which was produced as a result of a master’s thesis research in graduate school, is still widely used as it is included in the ‘Seoul Neuropsychological Test 2’, a standard test tool for dementia. So, I think we can talk more realistically about dementia.
In the past, dementia was not a common disease. However, with advances in medical science, the average life expectancy has increased significantly, and the prevalence of dementia has also increased. In fact, the prevalence of dementia varies greatly by age. The prevalence increases with increasing age. In the 60s, the prevalence is very low, with only 0.61% of the population having dementia, but it increases rapidly to 15% in the 70s, and in the 80s, the prevalence increases to the extent that 21~38.5% of the total population are dementia patients.
Common dementia (Alzheimer’s disease) is caused by a person’s genetic vulnerability. It is a disease that occurs when the brain degenerates with aging. Although we have not yet found a way to overcome this and reverse it, we believe that innovative treatment methods will emerge within the next 15 years as surprising research results have been published.
A precursor to dementia?…Forgetfulness
As we get older, we often forget to do things, forget where we put things, and our memory deteriorates. Some people experience memory loss as early as their 40s. In this case, it is said that ‘forgetfulness has arrived’, and memory loss is a natural part of aging.
However, recent research suggests that the symptoms of forgetfulness should never be taken lightly. People who sleep less or have problems with sleep quality are more likely to experience memory loss, such as forgetfulness, compared to the general population. Also, it is said that mild cognitive impairment, one of forgetfulness, is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, so it is by no means a symptom to see easily.
Most recently, research results were published that beta amyloid, a substance that causes Alzheimer’s disease, accumulates in brain cells from the age of 40. Meaning that forgetfulness in your 40s is not a coincidence. In general, it is known that from the age of 40, the brain nerve cells that are not used often start to disappear one by one every second.
Causes of dementia
A brain undergoing normal aging is less capable of learning new things compared to adolescence. On the other hand, it changes to find answers more efficiently for recurring situations and problems. However, if degenerative changes due to genetic vulnerability affect the ‘hippocampus’, which plays an important role in memory formation, and the ‘parietal lobe’, which is related to the ability to collect and judge various information, it develops into Alzheimer’s disease. Other types of dementia also exist due to degenerative changes in the frontal or occipital lobes.
In addition, environment and lifestyle also influence the onset of dementia. In the case of Korea, absolutely insufficient sleep time, frequent drinking, and low reading rate are the main causes of dementia.
According to various studies, the ideal amount of sleep is 8 hours. However, the average amount of sleep for Koreans is only 6.7 hours. The problem is that little sleep can be the cause of Alzheimer’s. In fact, a Finnish team found that the brains of adults who slept less than seven hours per night did not properly clear beta-amyloid. This means that you need at least 7 hours of sleep to keep your brain healthy and prevent memory loss.
Alcohol consumption is also strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Alcohol adversely affects the nerves in proportion to the dose. Of course, alcohol consumption in small amounts does not kill a lot of brain cells, but it destroys the microstructure of the nerve cell terminals and distorts the action of neurotransmitters, eventually reducing brain function.
Help = Hidak Consulting Doctor Hanseung Lee (Neurologist at Herb Neurology Clinic)