Symposium: dementia

Across the world, there are approximately 50 million people who have dementia. It is a disease with no cure, and a life where you would maybe never remember.

Freshman Marion Sloyan, Jillian Addy, and Autumn Redd presented their research, ” Dementia: a disease investigated” at the 2021 Piedmont Symposium. They went over treatments, signs and other symptoms. It started by talking about the origin of the world; the word dementia comes from Latin, meaning “without sense.” Memory loss is significantly one of the symptoms of dementia, so therefore, being without sense. Dementia is caused by the loss of nerve cells and other processes in the brain. It affects you in the hippocampus.

“Presenting about dementia was really impactful for me because it informed me about the struggles people go through with this disease,” Marion said.

Dementia can have both mental and physical effects. People can experience cognitive symptoms, so it involves your brain and other mental parts of yourself. It involves things like memory loss and slow brain functions. the other symptoms are physical changes, such as headaches, slow communication and feeling slow overall. There is mild cognitive impairment, mild dementia, moderate dementia and severe dementia.

“I could not imagine having to go through these things with people who have dementia,” Marion said.

There are many risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of suffering from dementia. The first risk factor is being 60 and up. At this age, people’s immune systems are not as strong, which increases the risk of getting any disease; you aren’t as likely to live as long with the disease. The second risk factor is if you live in a low to the middle-income area. People living in these areas can’t afford health care, and there is not as much attention given to them. The final risk factor is being a smoker. Smoking leads to atherosclerosis; a heart disease that also deals with the delivery of blood to the brain. Smoking is a major factor in dementia.

Although there is no cure for dementia; medications and therapies are provided to slow the process down. Medications include cholinesterase inhibitors, antidepressants, anxiolytics, and memantine. There are two types of therapies: reminiscence therapies, reality orientation training. There are lifestyle changes that involve staying active, good sleep, watching what you eat, and staying involved.

“These lifestyle changes are very important in my opinion because those are things we need now, especially as a student-athlete. Imagine having to change all of this, but also have a disease that could effect you so impactfully,” Marion said.

For some Piedmont students, dementia impacts them personally. “I have a family member that suffers from the disease, and I never really understood what it was or what it did to your body until now,” student Rachel Marsh said.

Dr. Julia Schmitz, associate professor of biology, said she enjoyed the presentation from Marion and the group. “I was proud to watch them develop and present on a well-researched disease.”

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