A recent study by the Biobanco of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (FMUSP) showed that insanity, usually associated with the elderly, can have a surprisingly high incidence among young adults.
According to information from researcher Roberta Diehl released by the Einstein Agency, the study analyzed the brains of 275 people under 65 years of age and identified the presence of vascular dementia — one that is caused by the lack of blood circulation — in 10% of the sample. Fortunately, not all of them showed symptoms of the disease. What this group had in common was the presence of lesions in the brain, sometimes of more than one type.
Vascular dementia happens when blood circulation in the brain is compromised, either as a result of a leak (as in the case of a stroke) or a clogging of blood vessels. Deprived of blood, neurons begin to degenerate and die and, with this, the patient starts to have difficulties in reasoning, memory and understanding.
The good news is that, in many cases, there are ways to minimize the likelihood of developing vascular dementia. As with other cardiovascular problems, it is possible to prevent it through behavioral changes, such as adopting a balanced diet, exercising, quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol abuse. Sticking to a stressful routine and overworking, over time, can also increase blood pressure and cause circulation problems. There are also studies that indicate a correlation between vascular dementia and depression, so that the sooner a depressed patient sees a psychiatrist, the better.
People who have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or have had a stroke are twice as likely to develop this type of dementia, and they should see their doctor regularly — even without symptoms — to keep these three risk factors under control. The same is true if they are part of your family history.
Early diagnosis of vascular dementia is critical, but current circumstances do not help. Due to the pandemic, the country backed down in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, which affect about 14 million Brazilians. This happened both due to the overload of the health system and the fear of becoming infected with Sars-CoV-2, which led many people to postpone or cancel exams, consultations and hospitalizations.
The consequences of this setback are already noticeable. A survey conducted by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) showed that deaths from cardiovascular diseases increased in all six capitals studied. In Manaus, these deaths increased by 132% between March and May 2020, compared to the previous year.
In addition to vascular problems, it is also worth drawing attention to Alzheimer’s disease, which is responsible for most cases of dementia praecox. It occurs from an accumulation of proteins in the brain, which causes damage and death of neurons in the regions responsible for learning and retaining information.
While in older people the first symptom of Alzheimer’s is usually memory loss, in young people it tends to be the last. Adults under the age of 65 are more likely to develop an ‘uncommon’ form of Alzheimer’s, in which the predominant symptoms are posterior cortical atrophy (difficulty processing visual information such as written words or distances), logopenic aphasia (a progressive loss of speech) and behavioral Alzheimer’s, which affects the ability to plan and make decisions, and often causes the patient to lose inhibitions and behave inappropriately.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading non-governmental organization dedicated to the disease, up to one in three young people with Alzheimer’s manifests some of these atypical forms. In older patients, they affect only one in 20 individuals.
Dementia praecox is a serious disease that irreversibly changes the way the patient relates to the world and can reduce — if not ruin — their quality of life. Prevention, when possible, and early diagnosis are crucial tools to guarantee the dignity of carriers of this disease. The more awareness and less prejudice society has around the subject, the better.