Stress may contribute to young onset dementia

Although dementia typically affects those above 65 years old, the youngest patient at the National Neurological Institute (NNI), a member of the SingHealth group, is 48 years old, according to Dr Nagaendran Kandiah, Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI).

The patient suffers from young onset dementia, which can affect those between 40 and 65.

“This is worrying because younger patients are more economically active and, in their case, there’s a bigger social impact,” said Dr Nagaendran.

He said the cause of young onset dementia is not fully known but stress could be an indirect factor.

“When someone feels stressed, his diet is affected and he exercises less often. This can lead to other health conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol that can cause strokes which, in turn, lead to dementia.”

Common types of dementia

Alzheimer's disease

  • Accounts for about 70 per cent of all dementia cases
  • Usually occurs in people 65 years and above
  • Brain scans will show shrinkage of the brain’s memory centre
  • Symptoms include short-term memory loss, changes in judgment or reasoning and loss of the ability to perform familiar tasks

Vascular dementia (dementia caused by strokes)

  • Accounts for about 25 to 30 per cent of all dementia cases
  • Can occur in patients as young as 40 and is often related to stroke
  • Because their memory can still be good, many patients fail to seek treatment
  • Can be managed by preventing stroke

Parkinson disease (PD) with dementia

  • PD dementia accounts for about 5 to 10 per cent of all dementia cases. About 30 to 80 per cent of patients with PD will develop dementia
  • Executive (job) and spatial functions might be affected

Fronto temporal dementia

  • Accounts for 20 per cent of young onset dementia cases
  • Usually occurs in patients in their 50s
  • Affects mainly language ability and behaviour. Pa​tients may behave impulsively, but their memory and orientation abilities remain relatively intact

Ref: S13​​​