Bruce Willis’ updated dementia diagnosis

Bruce Willis’ updated dementia diagnosis

“Die Hard” actor Bruce Willis stepped away from his career last spring after being diagnosed with aphasia. His family provided a somber new update about his condition – explaining that he has been given a more specific diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.

This type of dementia occurs when the brain’s frontal and/or temporal lobes experience nerve cell loss due to various protein accumulations in the brain. Damage to this part of the brain can cause a lapse of judgment, difficulties in social settings, aphasia, and other cognitive and behavioral deficits.

Although Willis’ diagnosis of aphasia progressed into frontotemporal dementia, aphasia doesn’t always precede the diagnosis.

“Aphasia is the disturbance of language. Dementia describes a more general problem where issues with cognition can interfere with daily life such as memory loss,” explains Dr. Darren Gitelman, neurologist and senior medical director of Advocate Memory Center. “Some patients with aphasia will have dementia but you can also get aphasia from strokes and not have dementia.”

Frontotemporal dementia is not purely genetic. Sometimes traumatic head injuries can lead to damage in this area of the brain. Other types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, can be genetically influenced, but that’s not the sole factor that can increase your risk. Some studies show that Alzheimer’s can be influenced by lifestyle factors and vascular conditions.

“I recommend exercising, eating properly and making sure you get a healthy amount of sleep to help reduce your dementia risk,” says Dr. Gitelman.

It’s still unknown whether lifestyle factors can also contribute to frontotemporal dementia.

Want to learn more about your risk for stroke? Take a free online quiz here.

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One Comment

  1. Terry Jones (Monty Python) had this. It is brutal.

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is a public affairs specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her Bachelor of Science in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in healthcare public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.