September was Dementia Awareness Month. The theme was Small actions. Big Difference.  Dementia is a condition associated with a reduction in brain function, the symptoms being loss memory for finding the the right word for everyday objects, lapses in recent memory , vagueness in everyday conversation, reduced thinking skills such as making decisions, planning , becoming less flexible, alterations to personality, becoming more hesitant to try new things, problems with language and reduced social skills. Symptoms vary, can be caused by other conditions and the disease progresses at a different pace for individuals and the areas of the brain affected. The diagnosis is complex and does not have one simple test and can take some time as various investigations and assessments such as psychological and blood tests are done.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia in Australia, there are many other diseases that may cause dementia . The exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not fully understood. More than a third of Australians aged between 70 and 90 will develop mild brain function decline ( slight memory change, decision making and problem solving reduction), about thirty per cent of this group will develop dementia in the next ten years. There is estimated to be 436,366 Australians living with dementia and 1.5 million Australians involved in their care today.

The majority of people with dementia live in the community, a dementia-friendly community encourages businesses, organisations, community groups to make changes to help those living with dementia and their carers. The website provides resources for sufferers, families, carers and communities, for example- simples changes businesses can make such as keeping surrounding familiar, allowing easy access, supporting meaningful tasks, promoting independence and unobtrusively reducing risks.

Current treatment options provide minimal improvement at best. There are no current known cures for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, but an enormous amount of research demonstrating the benefits of risk factor reduction to reduce the chance of developing the disease.


  1. Lifestyle factors make up half your risk of developing dementia, you can reduce smoking, reduce obesity, reduce alcohol consumption, exercise regularly, eat well ( increase vegetables) , increase cognitive activity (such as reading, playing musical instruments, stress management,  trying new hobbies, going to the museum, going to a concert,  doing something you are bad at causing a challenge to your brain) and have an active social life.
  2. Treat illness, reduce your cardiovascular risks such as controlling blood pressure and high cholesterol, control weight,  managing chronic illnesses, correcting hearing loss.
  3. Treat mood and sleep disorders
  4. Find someone to love, living with someone, being married and volunteering all make you more resilient to memory decline

There is no single test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and memory problems do not necessarily mean that you have Alzheimer's disease. Memory problems are often associated with anxiety, stress, depression, medicines and other health problems that are treatable. Your GP is best placed to help sort out what is going on.

The genetic contribution to Alzheimer's Disease ( AD)  risk is poorly understood despite significant input since the 1990s identifying three genes that cause early onset familial AD and one significant gene risk factor for late onset AD. ( apolipoprotein E epsilon 4) The early onset  form of AD accounts for less than 1% of cases and follows an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. Despite decades of research, much of the heritability of AD remains unexplained. Genetic testing is available for the known causative genes in early onset AD, but has not been widely adopted because of the lack of effective or therapeutic strategies.

 APOE genotyping in pre-symptomatic individuals if discouraged, but becoming accessible through direct-to -consumer testing.

APOE genotyping is controversial as the low sensitivity and specificity of testing,( probably because of interacting environmental and epigenetic influences)  the lack of preventive options and the apparent variability of risk conferred by APOE across genders and ethnicities.

for more information contact Alzheimer's Australia at

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