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Dr. Luis Fernando Salguero


Dementia is a syndrome that causes a series of progressive disorders that affect memory, thought, behavior and the ability to perform daily activities. AD is the most common type of dementia. People with dementia and their families and friends, are affected in a personal, emotional and financial way. There are other types of dementia, particularly vascular dementia which is the second most frequent cause of dementia. Now, we also talk about mixed dementia which is Alzheimer’s disease with an important cerebral vascular dementia component.

AD affects mostly the elderly, but currently it is believed that there are more and more cases that begin before 65 years of age. After that age, the probability of developing it is duplicated every five years.

The 2010 world report of the International Alzheimer Association emphasizes on the elevated economic, social and emotional cost of this disease that will continue to increase at an alarming rate. We must work toward improving the attention of these patients but above all diminish the risks of having it. It is estimated that there are 35.6 million people living with dementia around the world and it will increase to 65.7 million in the year 2030. In the year 2050 there will be 115.4 million. Almost two thirds live in medium and low income countries, where the greatest increases will take place. The majority of people with dementia live in developing countries.

In Guatemala, in the year 2008, the population of adults over 65 years of age was approximately of 508,000 people and if it is estimated that 10% of this population suffers from dementia, we have 50,800 people suffering the disease. This is an epidemic of great proportions with no curative or preventive treatment. In our country there are no public or private institutions to inform about this terrible epidemic we are living. With our few resources the only thing we can do is get to know the risk factors and the protective factors that help prevent it.

Unmodifiable Risk Factors:

  • Age: It is the most important risk factor for AD. One in eight people over 65 years of age have Alzheimer’s and approximately half of the people over 85 years of age suffer from it.
  • Genetic family history:: People who have a father or a brother with Alzheimer’s have a risk two or three times greater of developing the disease. The risk increases if more than one person in a family has the disease.

MODIFIABLE FACTORS: Avoid them or modify them because they increase the risk of suffering from AD.

  • Avoid cranio-cerebral traumas.
  • Arterial hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Stress

Protective Factors: Lifestyle directly affects the brain. To keep it healthy we need to:

  • Look for an enriching environment.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Use your left hand to stimulate your right side of the brain and vice-versa
  • Keep a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Decrease exposure to chemical or toxic products
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Decrease stress
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Be married or have a partner (to share experiences with)
  • Stimulate your brain (It is known that we must not only do physical exercise but also mental exercise. For example: solving crossword puzzles, stimulating reading)
  • Develop and maintain stimulating social and family relationships
  • Please, laugh frequently. Maintain a positive attitude that’s less judgmental.