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Dementia singapore statistics

Dementia Singapore Statistics

What’s the difference?

Singapore as a Super-aged Nation

According to the United Nations, a country is super-aged when 21 per cent of its population are aged 65 and older.

In 2023, about 17% of Singapore residents are more than 65 years old. By 2030, 25% of people in Singapore will be more than 65 years of age. This means that in the short span of 7 years, the number of people 65 and above would have increased by 8%.

In fact, Singapore is set to attain “super-aged” status in 2026.

Alzheimer’s Epidemic in Singapore

According to a research study by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in 2015, one in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore have dementia.

Statistics also show people who are above the age of 65 are at risk of Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.

Often, people confuse Alzheimer’s and dementia with memory problems that occur as a normal part of aging. However, these are complex brain disorders that not only result in memory loss, but also reasoning difficulties, language loss as well as reduced motor function.

Dementia vs Alzheimers: An Overview

The terms’ Alzheimer’s’ and ‘Dementia’ are often used interchangeably; however, you must understand the differences between the two.

Dementia is not one specific disease. Think of dementia as the umbrella label for when you suffer from short term memory loss, difficulty finding words to communicate or even an inability to recognize your loved ones.

Alzheimer’s is one of the most common types of dementia where there is progressive damage to brain cells, resulting in a memory decline and poor judgment.

In fact, to illustrate the variety of conditions that fall under the Dementia umbrella, we list below 8 different kinds of dementias:

  1. Vascular dementia 
  2. Lewy body dementia 
  3. Frontotemporal disease 
  4. Parkinson’s disease
  5. Huntington’s disease 
  6. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy 
  7. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  8. Alzheimer’s Disease 

What are the Common Signs of Dementia?

Dementia happens because the brain is degenerating, which then results in disruptions to focus, memory, recognition and cognitive judgment. The following are the common signs of dementia:

  • Tendency to take much longer to complete normal tasks.
  • Repeating the same question.
  • Not remembering what something is used for.
  • Difficulty naming things.
  • Inability to remember people close to them.
  • Misplacing items often.
  • Getting lost easily.
  • Inability to keep track of time.

What are the Causes of Dementia?

It has been widely believed that dementia is an inevitable part of ageing. As you get older, you will start forgetting words, experience difficulty remembering recent events and even get lost in familiar places.

Yes, ageing is one of the factors contributing to the onset of dementia. 

But age is not the only factor. We are at this time in history where we cannot just accept brain degeneration as the inevitable result of old age.

The Existing Theory of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to existing theory, Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder characterized by an accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain. The other protein that also accumulates in an Alzheimer brain is the tau protein.       

As beta-amyloid and tau accumulate, they ‘contaminate’ the healthy parts of the brain. The presentation of the Alzheimer patient may vary depending on which part of the brain is affected.  

The following result in beta amyloid and tau collection in the brain:

  • Insulin resistance – think diabetes.
  • Emotional stressors
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Physical trauma to the head
  • Environmental pollution
  • Genetics: people with the Apoe4 gene have a much higher chance of Alzheimers.

What are the existing treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists have been certain up till now that brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s disease are incurable and irreversible.

Pharmaceutical approaches alone do not seem to provide all the answers. However, the following 3 categories of pharmaceuticals are worth mentioning:

  1. Cholinesterase inhibitors: Cholinesterase inhibitors like Galantamine, Rivastigmine, and Donepezil help increase communications between nerve cells. 
  2. Memantine: Nerve cells damaged by Alzheimer’s disease produce too much glutamate, which cause further damage to the brain. How Memantine works is by blocking NMDA receptors, hence reducing glutamate production and damage to the brain. 
  3. Antipsychotics: Normally reserved for use in emergencies as a last resort, antipsychotics like haloperidol to treat behavioral or psychological symptoms of dementia,

Coconut oil is a remedy promulgated by neo-natologist Dr Mary Newport.

When she found no answers in the existing healthcare system, she did a deep dive into research and tested the use of coconut oil on her husband with amazing results.

There is however the conundrum of saturated fats like coconut being perhaps g-good for brain but bad for cardiovascular health.

Is it true that Alzheimer’s cannot be reversed?

It has not been definitively confirmed that Alzheimer’s is reversible. For this reason, Alzheimer’s is understood as a terminal disease with no cure. The guidelines in the medical system revolve around palliative care, and the prognosis in terms of lifespan is not optimistic.

However, recently research into Alzheimers has uncovered some bright spots, including the ongoing research by Dale Bredesen.

  1. Age: The most significant and non-modifiable risk factor for dementia is age. As we age, our brains undergo natural changes that increase the likelihood of cognitive decline. The risk of dementia doubles every five years after age 65.
  2. Genetics: Genetics play a crucial role in dementia susceptibility. The presence of the apolipoprotein E (APOE4) gene, particularly two copies, significantly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While APOE4 doesn’t directly cause Alzheimer’s, it influences how the brain processes amyloid-beta protein, a hallmark of the disease.
  3. Early Cognitive Decline: Early signs of cognitive decline, such as memory lapses or difficulty finding words, may serve as precursors to dementia. These subtle changes can manifest years before a formal diagnosis, highlighting the importance of early monitoring and intervention.
  4. Metabolic Disorders: Metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity are closely linked to dementia risk. These conditions disrupt glucose metabolism in the brain, leading to impaired energy production and neuronal damage.
  5. Cardiovascular Disease: Cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, share a common thread with dementia – they damage the brain’s blood supply and oxygen delivery. Chronic lack of blood flow and oxygen can lead to cognitive decline and increase dementia risk.
  6. Neurological Disease: Neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease and stroke directly impact brain function. Parkinson’s disease, characterized by the loss of dopamine-producing neurons, can also cause dementia. Stroke, on the other hand, disrupts blood flow to specific brain regions, potentially leading to cognitive impairment.
  7. Lifestyle Factors: Lifestyle habits, including excessive alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, and chronic stress, exert a negative influence on brain health. Alcohol abuse can cause brain damage and impair cognitive function. Sleep disturbances disrupt brain processes essential for memory consolidation and can lead to cognitive decline. Chronic stress, through its impact on stress hormones, can also contribute to brain damage and increase dementia risk.
  8. Environmental Factors: Environmental factors, such as exposure to air pollution, heavy metals, and pesticides, have been linked to dementia risk. These toxins can damage brain cells and contribute to cognitive decline.

By understanding the eight major risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s, we can take proactive steps to reduce our risk and promote brain health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, addressing underlying medical conditions, and engaging in mentally stimulating activities can significantly lower the chances of developing this debilitating condition.