Dementia in the Youth: Strategies for a Healthier Brain

Types of Dementia

According to Dementia UK, there are over 200  different types of dementia. Each subtype of dementia impacts brain cells (neurons), various areas of the brain, and may present unique brain pathology on brain scans and tests. The term “dementia” is commonly referred to as a group of symptoms that affect cognitive function, including memory, language, perception, reasoning, and behavior. The most common symptoms of dementia may include memory loss, confusion, difficulty with language or communication, mood swings, and changes in behavior or personality. Ultimately,  dementia is characterized by a decline in cognitive abilities that interferes with daily life and activities.

Dementia can be caused by a variety of factors, including age-related changes, genetics, brain injury, infections, and chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia). There is currently no cure for dementia, but Early diagnosis is crucial as well as implementing lifestyle interventions important in maintaining a brain-healthy lifestyle. 

Childhood Dementia

While increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for dementia, children and young adults can be impacted, too. Over 700,000 children across the world are living with dementia. Childhood dementia refers to a rare group of over 70 genetic disorders that children are born with. It is a progressive disease that involves a loss of cognitive, behavioral, and physical function, leading to a decline in the child’s ability to communicate, move, and interact with their environment.

Symptoms of childhood dementia may include developmental delays, loss of milestones, behavioral changes, seizures, and motor dysfunction. Individual symptoms may progress over months, years, and decades impacting children, their families, and their communities. While there is currently no cure for childhood dementia, treatment is aimed at managing symptoms and improving the quality of life for affected children and their families.

Digital Dementia

In 2015, a German neuroscientist, Dr. Manfred Spitzer, M.D., Ph.D., coined “Digital Dementia”, which has been recognized as a modern-day health epidemic. “Digital Dementia” is a term used to describe the negative impact of excessive technology use on cognitive function, particularly on the abilities related to memory, attention, and learning. It refers to a decline in cognitive abilities that are associated with the overuse of digital technology, including smartphones, computers, and video games, and may lead to a reduction in the ability to think, reason, and process information.

Digital dementia can affect people of all ages, but it is more commonly observed in younger individuals who are heavy users of technology. The condition is characterized by symptoms such as forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and a reduced ability to learn new things. The condition can be prevented or managed through a brain-healthy lifestyle including: reducing screen time, engaging in physical activity, and engaging in activities that stimulate cognitive function.

Know Your Brain Health Risks

Brain health broadly encompasses lifestyle factors that contribute to one’s risk reduction for brain-related diseases such as the types of dementia. Knowledge is power and being able to notice some of our brain health risks can be motivating. Currently, the modifiable brain health risk factors that have been identified and studied include the following: genetics (ApoE e4 allele, rare diseases), education (lower levels), hearing loss, hypertension, obesity, smoking, and second-hand smoke, depression, physical inactivity, social isolation, air pollution,  heart health, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and alcohol. Additional factors that have been emerging in the literature include hydration, sleep, meditation, diet, mental health, and COVID-19 to name a few. The field of brain health is rapidly evolving.

Call to Action for Your Optimal Brain Care

Below are some simple first steps to take time away from your technology or try these challenges with friends and family.

  1. Set time boundaries. Identify a period of time where you can reduce the amount of time you spend on electronic devices. Start with a shorter interval period and increase the time.

  2. Unplug from electronic devices and eliminate blue light at least one hour before bedtime. Notice the difference in the quality and quantity of sleep.

  3. Create a tech free zone or space in your home. Designate an area that you can go to unplug at various times of the day and throughout your week.

  4. Try a digital detox. Unplug from the internet including your smartphone, electronics, and television for a few days. Take a break from technology and immerse yourself in other activities such as spending time in nature, engaging in a hobby that you enjoy, or reading a book, newspaper or magazine. (You can start with a few hours one evening and then try a digital detox weekend.)

Notice the benefits that you may feel from a digital detox in one way or another. Tune into your body, emotions, and mind. Take a mental note or journal your digital detox experience.

May you continue to find new and additional ways to support your optimal brain care and those you love.

In brain health & wellness,

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top
Skip to content