The director of the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine discussed the real-world level of dementia education and where it needs improvement.
"People who are old that have memory problems don’t have memory problems because they’re old. They have memory problems because there’s something causing their memory problems. It could be Alzheimer disease, it could be a stroke, it could be a lot of things—but it’s not age."
The associations between age and dementia have been well documented through countless studies, but the stigma that dementia is an inevitable part of getting older is incorrect. A 2018 survey conducted by Alzheimer’s Research UK found that the awareness of dementia is increasing but understanding the underlying causes of the disease remains low. In fact, 1 in 5 UK adults (22%) incorrectly perceived dementia as an inevitable part of getting older, whereas 60% correctly disagreed and a further 17% were unsure either way.
Despite the mounting evidence which has suggested dementia cases could be linked to risk factors within a patient’s control, only just over one-third (34%) of individuals who answered that survey thought it was possible to reduce their risk, compared to 81% who thought it possible to reduce their risk of developing diabetes. James E. Galvin, MD, MPH, director, Comprehensive Center for Brain Health, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been at the forefront in promoting dementia awareness and education. He recently helped conduct a study that used a telephone app to improve dementia knowledge in rural communities, as well as identify those who may be at risk for memory impairment.
Galvin sat down with NeurologyLive to provide his thoughts on the areas of dementia knowledge that cause the most concern, and how the clinician community can help change the publics misperceptions.