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I, like many others here, believe that we just know more about it now and that more people are living beyond where they would naturally have lived, even a decade ago. My FIL has Lewy Body Dementia. However, he had a heart attack 10 years ago. He ended up spending two months in the hospital, 6 bypasses and a replacement valve put in. The advancement of medicine helped him survive a health crisis that was not possible even 20 years ago. I cherish the last 10 years we've had with him and he had some really good times in those years. However, he is now suffering.
Like many other health maladies, I don't think any of them have gotten more prevalent, I think we just live longer and have greater access to statistics than we did when our parents were young.
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My best guess: We are living longer, as others have said, though to what purpose I don't know. What's the point of prolonging life with daily loss of brain cells? Beats me. But that's a whole other topic.

Another suggestion is a change in expectations. It used to be that families expected a mental decline in the elderly. This was not seen as dementia so much as "senility," a normal expectation in old age. Grandma repeats herself. Grandpa imagines stuff. It's just "old age." Now, we get diagnoses of multiple manifestations of dementia. Maybe these diseases were always there but were called something else. I remember it wasn't until the 1970's that I'd ever even heard of Alzheimer's.
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Let's not forget, the first wave of baby boomers are now seniors. I'm part of the first wave and am in my early 70's. And there were a lot of us born in the mid to late 1940's, after the military came home from World War II.
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The problem is we r living longer. Life expententcy was 65 in the 60s. It's now late 70s but people are outliving their body's. I really think our bodies are only good till our 80s unless you took good care of them. So you see more Dementia/Alz. ADHD was considered being hyper at one time.
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RaylinStephens - really interesting point on iodine.

Most common sources of iodine are through iodine salt - table salt like Morton’s - and seafood.

As we age it seems most people are advised to reduce or eliminate table salt due to things like high blood pressure and CHF. Then there’s the problem with seafood- mercury.

And yes, previous studies have linked low iodine to “intellectual deficiencies”.

This is an area that you just don’t hear much about. I remember hearing about it a couple of years ago but blew it off as I salt everything - I practically salt my salt. Hubby on the other hand has two separate heart conditions and has been told NO SALT! I think I’m definitely going to look into the option of supplements for him.

Thanks, RaylinStephens for bringing this up!
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Because we are malnourished. We don't get even the "minimum daily requirements" of too many nutrients and minerals.

Back in the 1970's, they determined that Senile Dementia came from malnutrition. So, you stopped hearing Senile Dementia and they started with Alzheimer's.

There is an Iodine Deficiency that is becoming epidemic. Your multiple vitamins don't have all the minimum daily requirements. And, we're sterilizing our foods to the point of killing off anything nutritious. Add to this, "fast food."

After I started DH & I on Iodine, his cognition improved 99% - pardon the pun but it staggers my mind how one nutrient can affect everything. He's still 96 and fuzzy around the edges, but he knows who I am again, knows this is our home, knows where the bathroom is again and is even up and watching TV again! All this from meeting his Iodine needs. (mind you, this is not the iodine you apply to your boo-boo. it is food grade.)

Start "googling" for information - it's out there. If I could find it, anyone can find it.
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I wonder if dementia/alzheimers is as rampant nowadays as well.. or if we just are more aware and label it differently.

My Dad's mother had dementia (mid 80's) and my Moms father had dementia (mid 80's). Both of their spouses died early (in their 60's). The difference with my grandparents dementia journey is that it was fairly quick. They both started showing signs of dementia, were kept at home as long as they could (probably about 1 year staying with different family members), then they went to a nursing home where they both passed within 2 years. So their whole dementia journey was 3 years or less.

In contrast, my Dad first sign of dementia was 6 years ago... he could live another 5 to ten years.. making his dementia journey around 15 years!

My parents only took care of their parents for a month or 2 in their home and share with other siblings before the nursing home so no one person dealt with dementia for years and years.

I wonder if it is a combo of living longer.. especially after dementia symptoms and we are just more aware? Back when my grandma had dementia there was no aging care forum to see others going through the same thing.

I also hate to see people live on years and years while their brain died a long time ago... all this time, effort, money to keep people alive whose brains are dying off (not to mention the poor caregiver practically giving up their lives for years and years).. so very sad. I hope I can avoid that fate for myself.
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Longer lives are a big part of the increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia diagnoses. But, there is also early onset dementia. I believe that decades ago, we called it by many different names. Senility, hardening of the arteries, bats in the belfry, nervous breakdowns, etc. My doctor told me that a hundred years ago, if grandpa started acting crazy, chances are he got locked in a room. It was something that was NEVER talked about in Polite Society, so that could be part of it.
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I agree about - yes, we live in a chemically derived world. Just about everything made anymore. That can't be healthy. Everything that we breath goes into our systems, what we put on our skin even absorbs into our blood stream, and most of our foods today?
While watching our news channel not long ago - they were talking about Dementia/ Alzheimer's is expected to go way up. Just made me wonder why our future looks so bleak!
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One thing I noticed as I was shaking the family tree on my Dad's side of the family, they lived into their 90's and 100's even back in the 1800's. And oh my gosh, there were a lot of relatives. Lot of relatives way back then had 10 to 15 children, and their children kept the family pace.

Only one relative died of the 1918 flu epidemic which surprised me there weren't more. But then again, majority were farmers. Not face to face with a lot of people.

Had one great-great-grandfather pass from dementia, but his was caused by a farming accident where he was cleaning a well, had a kerosene lantern, and there was an explosion where he had lack of oxygen.

I remember talk of one relative old-timer who was said to be senile. He would go for a walk and the family had to go out to look for him hours later. Whether he was senile or just wanted to get out of house and visit other town folks is still not known :)

The medical condition that caused most of the family deaths was heart related, and that tradition still carries on. Dad lived to be 95. His Mom lived to be 91. One great-great aunt lived to be 103, she was a "spinster" as that was a common reference to a woman who never married.
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Darn--I meant to add this: my MIL is really, really "dotty"--like, just checked out, mentally, although she doesn't have dementia.

She told me once that she cleaned EVERYDAY with a bucket of ammonia and bleach mixed together--said it was the BEST cleaner--well, gee, we ALL know that creates a toxic gas you shouldn't breathe and I often wonder if that's why she's so cuckoo?
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I don't know about there being "more" dementia and Alzheimer's...I think we're just way more informed these days. Also, people didn't talk about relatives with dementia--you just kept family stuff quiet. The whole world is a click away with information--and people DO live longer nowadays. I think that it could be linked to environmental "poisonings" or chemicals we used without thinking twice. (I'm remembering the clouds of antiperspirants we were spraying in the locker rooms--loaded with aluminum)...really, who knows?

The dental issue is very legit. My DH had liver transplant and he takes antibiotics before ANY procedure and sees the dentist regularly. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through decayed teeth and cause serious problems, bacteria can attack the heart, kidneys, lungs. I was a dental assistant early on in my life and I would see some pretty sick people whose mouths were full of rotting teeth--there's simply no excuse for that these days.

I have an acquaintance who simply never brushed her teeth. Ever. I'd see her twice a year at luncheons or whatever and slowly witnessed her teeth simply rotting out of her head. SO gross. Finally she had them all pulled and started wearing full dentures at age 59. I know she had been in poor health, and I am sure the rotted teeth was partially a cause.
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Medical Advances are great most times except - Why keep these people alive with Dementia/ Alzheimer's?? When they hit the point of being a shell of a person with NO brain? So that our facilities that care for them can reap the benefits $$? I have worked at assisted living and watched a family member bring in a check ($3,000,00 every month to pay the difference that S.S. didn't pay.) Only the rich can afford to pay for caregivers - so that they can go on with their every day lives! My mother's S.S. is just barely over the limit to qualify for medicaid to get any respite help, so that I can get away once in awhile. Most of our parents didn't have to give up their lives to take care of their parents in this way! I know that I don't want my kids to go through what I am right now!! So - why prolong these lives with drugs to keep them alive? So that our medical society reaps benefits from the family's also? A lot of money to be made off this growing disease that eventually turns into an episode of the walking dead!
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Interesting dot-to-dot, Stacey.

Both my parents had extensive dental work that seemed to become more frequent as they aged. I haven’t a doubt that my parents dental work put at least a couple of their dentist children through college. 

Although, my father who passed the day before his 85th birthday only began showing signs of dementia in the couple of weeks prior to his death. I do believe that in his case it was not dementia at all but rather the accumulated effect of mass morphine and Ativan doses given to him through hospice. 

And - it’s definitely accurate to say my mothers dementia rapidly worsened at the same time she pretty much stopped brushing her teeth. But I kinda think that in my moms case at least, it’s a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” in trying to connect any dots between her dementia and her lack of dental hygiene.
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I don't know about the bacteria entering the bloodstream and getting to the brain. There's a pretty significant blood-brain barrier. There's significant evidence that bacteria from periodontal disease entering the bloodstream and damaging other organs. Particularly the heart.
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Rainmom, I agree that it seems like many doctors will prescribe some pill which has side effects, and often those side effects end up being treated with yet other pills. I noticed the connection to UTIs but from what I have experienced and read, it sounds like as people age, they just forget to drink water. Then they get UTIs and a lot of antibiotics. Since the elderly can get delirious when they have a UTI, maybe there is something that long-term affects the brain. I think there is another connection or contributor. Dental. As they get older, they may stop brushing so hard. Might forget altogether. Dentists seem to believe that the bacteria in the mouth really enters the bloodstream and has been found in the brain in autopsies. I noticed that, even with assisted living, my mother is not brushing her teeth enough and it went on long enough to cause cavities and a huge bill. She is 91 and her teeth are worth saving. I don't think it is safe to have bad teeth pulled. Better to let them fall out if the teeth are not salvageable. Best to have the caries filled and caps placed. Anyone else notice dental issues preceding a significant mental decline?
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People are living longer and what was once considered just getting old or being "senile" is now classified as dementia. Same with autism. A lot of the increase has to do with reclassification and people that weren't labeled as having dementia or autism are now.
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Something I’ve been pondering lately is the long term consequences of too many pharmaceuticals.

For instance-

A couple of years ago I was discussing my life long insomnia problem with my doctor.

I made the comment that having to get up to pee twice a night didn’t help matters.
My doctor offered to write me a prescription for a drug that mutes/reduces the feeling of - the urge - to pee.

I said no thanks saying I didn’t think it was a good idea to confuse the brain/body function relationship by artificial means, ie drugs. He seemed amused by my comment and assured me “it’s completely safe”.

What the doctor didn’t know was that I was thinking about my mother - who was in a nursing home with dementia, incontinence etc.

My mom had always had a weak bladder and was forever looking for a fix - going so far as to having Botox injected into her bladder.

Now mom was completely incontinent. In fact, the bladder incontinence came on prior to the dementia. And really, with her bladder history it was no surprise.

But still I wonder - is it a good idea to take meds that alter or override the brain? I’m not going all Tom Cruise on the whole thing - but we take drugs to calm us when our brain wants to be anxious. Drugs to make us happy when our brain wants to be depressed. Drugs to tell us we don’t have to pee - when yeah, I gotta pee.

Just something I’ve been pondering - as it related to dementia...
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None of mom's siblings had dementia but then none lived as long as she and none of them had easy passings

Her parents had heart problems and passed at about 80

I still attribute much of her dementia to bad falls as she didn't even take a BP med until she was about 80
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My grandfather was "senile" too, (probably vascular dementia since he had a stroke at some point) he died at the grand old age of 81(?). My mom's mind was in excellent shape until she was in her mid 90's... the statistics seem to increase exponentially with every decade you live.
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My grandmother was cognitively impaired, but she never counted in dementia statistics ... she was senile. Partly we have much more accurate diagnosis statistics today.
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I also feel like ADHD and such are more common now. Maybe we just live in a time where everyone wants and needs a diagnosis and reason.. before we just dealt with it. I know so many parents now with boys who have ADHD , where as before they were "just being boys" Not saying that was better.. just an observation
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I am glad you brought this topic up. Of course, due to medical advances, people are living longer. BUT.... It seems to me that I do not remember ever being around very elderly people who had dementia or alzheimers. I would love to see some data that really shows that the condition is more prevalent....it sure seems like it.
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