Cognitive decline is the most feared condition associated with old age. Concern is merited, explained Leacey Brown, SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist.
"The number of people with dementia is expected to rise over the coming decade. By the year 2025, 20,000 people over the age of 65 in South Dakota are projected to have Alzheimer's disease," Brown said.
While this projection seems small, she said it is a 25 percent increase from 2014.
November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. Brown explained that dementia does not refer to a specific disease. Instead it is a term to describe a wide array of symptoms associated with a decline in mental abilities or cognitive impairment.
"Overtime time this decline makes it difficult for the individual to engage in everyday tasks like laundry or cooking," she said.
Alzheimer's disease, she went on to explain, is the root cause of dementia in most cases. The second most common cause is Vascular dementia that occurs after a person has a stroke. "Other conditions may cause dementia symptoms to appear, including thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies or even illness," Brown said.
Because so many variables can impact cognitive decline, Brown said it is important to visit with a medical provider if a loved one is suspected to show signs of dementia. This is especially important if the symptoms appear suddenly.
When discussing cognitive decline, Brown said the biggest question on everyone's mind is, how to prevent Alzheimer's disease? "There is no silver bullet to prevent dementia," she said.
However, she said recent research suggests lifestyle choices may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. "The single most import thing a person can do to prevent dementia and delay the onset of disease is to quit smoking, followed by staying physically and socially active."
She added that the final step is to keep the mind active by pursuing educational goals or engaging in regular problem solving.
To learn more on this topic, visit iGrow.org.