Dementia Can be "Contagious"

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer's Disease

A diagnosis of Dementia is frightening — whether it’s the afflicted or their adult children.
Dementia (which means “madness” or “without mind” in Latin)   is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal aging. It may be static, the result of a unique global brain injury, or progressive, resulting in long-term decline due to damage or disease in the body. Although dementia is far more common in the elderly, it can occur before the age of 65, in which case it is termed “early onset dementia”.
Dementia is not a single disease, but rather a non-specific illness syndrome — a set of signs and symptoms of impaired cognition in  memory, attention, language, and problem solving. Some of the most common forms of dementia are: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. Less than 10% of cases of dementia are due to causes that may presently be reversed with treatment.
A 2007 study by the National Institute of Health — the first population-based study of dementia to include people from all regions of the U.S. — found that 1 of every 7 older Americans had dementia. Specifically, 3.4 million Americans aged 71 years and older — almost 14% — have dementia, and 2.4 million of them (9.7%) have Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Is dementia contagious?
Carolyn Rosenblatt, a nurse, attorney and mediator for aging related conflicts, writes for Forbes, March 21, 2011, that Johns Hopkins and Utah State University have been researching the finding that a person is more likely to develop dementia if his/her spouse has dementia.
The Johns Hopkins recent health alert reports:

“One thousand two hundred twenty-one married couples age 65 and older were selected from the Cache County Study on Memory and Aging, a trial that began in 1995. Couples were followed for up to 12.6 years, with a median follow-up time of 3.3 years. Dementia was diagnosed in 255 of the 2,442 participants.

Individuals whose spouses were diagnosed with dementia had a six-fold greater risk of dementia, even after adjusting for other factors, than individuals whose spouses showed no signs of dementia. Husbands had a significantly higher risk of developing dementia than wives.”

What can possibly cause this?  Researchers speculate that the immense burdens of caring for a loved one with dementia, similar diets and people marrying individuals like themselves are possible reasons.
What can we do to prevent dementia?
Although the research is still unclear on this, we do know some  things that seem to be protective. These are:

  • Regular exercise for the body.
  • A Mediterranean diet — a diet low in meats (especially red meat) and high in vegetables, fruits, grains, and “good” oils, such as olive oil.
  • Stimulating exercise for the brain, not just doing crossword puzzles, but brain activities that make our brains work in an organized way — analyzing data like financial spreadsheets and  solving some aggravating problem.

So, it turns out aggravation is good for our brains! That means we regulars on FOTM, aggravated to no end over the state of America, are protected from dementia! LOL
Even the blackest cloud has a silver lining. 😉

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Steve Parker, M.D.

Thanks for spreading the word on the healthy Mediterranean diet. In addition to lowered rates of dementia, it’s also linked to longer lifespan and lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (breast, prostate, colon, and uterus).
I’ll be surprised if Alzheimer’s turns out to be an infectious disease.

Helane Shields

Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner (UCSF) and other scientists say Alzheimer’s and Parkinson Diseases in humans are transmissible prion/protein misfolding diseases: Human prion diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, may be due to lack of USDA testing for mad cow disease (in 2010 only 34,386 cows were tested out of 37 million slaughtered) Prions in animal feeds are also a serious risk: The US Dept. of Agriculture has been covering up for years the fact that 1.9 million “downer cows” – the animals most likely to have Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) – (Mad Cow Disease) – are rendered into… Read more »