Dementia is used to describe a set of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social interactions, enough to interfere with your daily routine life.
Dementia symptoms varies depending on the cause but symptoms include:
Cognitive changes include:
- Memory loss, usually noticed by friends or family
- Difficulty in communication or finding words
- Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities
- Difficulty reasoning / problem-solving
- Difficulty handling complex tasks
- Difficulty with planning and organizing
- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
- Confusion and disorientation
Psychological changes include:
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
When to see a doctor
See a doctor if you or your loved one has memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some treatable medical conditions can also cause dementia symptoms like vitamins B12 deficiency.
Dementia is caused by damage or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain. It depends on the area of the brain that’s affected and causes different symptoms.
Dementias are often grouped by what they have in common, such as the protein or proteins deposited in the brain or the part of the brain that’s affected.
Types of dementias that progress and aren't reversible include:
- Alzheimer’s disease. The most common cause of dementia.
Alzheimer’s patients have plaques and tangles in their brains. Plaques are made of clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid, and tangles are fibrous tangles made up of tau protein.
- Vascular dementia. This is caused by damage to the vessels that supply blood to brain. Blood vessel problems can cause strokes or affect the brain in other ways, such as by damaging the fibers in the white matter of the brain.
- Lewy body dementia. Lewy bodies are abnormal balloonlike clumps of protein that have been found in the brains of people with Lewy body dementia. This is one of the more common types of progressive dementia.
Common symptoms include acting out one’s dreams in sleep, seeing things that aren’t there (visual hallucinations), and problems with focus and attention.
- Frontotemporal dementia. This is a set of diseases characterized by the breakdown of nerve cells and their connections in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
- These are the areas associated with personality, behavior and language.
- Huntington’s disease. It is caused by a genetic mutation, this disease causes certain nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord to waste away.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI). This condition is most often caused by repetitive head trauma.
- Boxers, football players or soldiers might develop TBI.
Dementia-like conditions that can be reversed
- Infections and immune : Multiple sclerosis and other conditions caused by the body’s immune system attacking nerve cells also can cause dementia.
- Endocrine abnormalities. People having thyroid problems, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), or problems absorbing vitamin B-12 can develop dementia or other personality related changes.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Not getting enough hydration, not getting enough vitamins like B-1, B-6 and B-12 can cause dementia.
- Subdural hematomas. Bleeding between the surface of brain and its covering over it, which is commonly seen in the elderly after a fall, can cause symptoms similar to those of dementia disease.
Many factors can contribute towards dementia. Some factors, such as age, can’t be changed. Others can be addressed to minimize your risk.
Risk factors that can’t be changed
- Age. The risk rises as you age, especially after age 65.
- Family history. Having a strong family history of dementia puts you at greater risk of developing it.
Risk factors you can change
You can control the following risk factors for dementia.
- Diet and exercise. Research has shown that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia.
- Excessive alcohol use. Drinking large quantity of alcohol has long been known to cause brain changes.
- Cardiovascular risk factors. This include high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, buildup of fats in your artery walls (atherosclerosis) and obesity.
- Depression. late-life depression might indicate the development of dementia.
- Diabetes. Having diabetes may also increase risk of dementia
- Smoking. Smoking increases your risk of developing dementia and blood vessel diseases.
- Head trauma. People who had suffered from a severe head trauma have a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sleep disturbances. People who have sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances can be at higher risk of developing dementia.
- Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies. Low levels of certain vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate can increase your risk of dementia.
- Medications that can worsen memory. Try to avoid over-the-counter sleep aids that contain diphenhydramine (Advil PM, Aleve PM) and medications used to treat urinary urgency such as oxybutynin .
Dementia can lead to:
- Poor nutrition. Many people with dementia usually reduce or stop eating. Ultimately, they might be unable to chew and swallow.
- Pneumonia. Difficulty swallowing increases the risk of choking or aspirating food into the lungs, which can cause pneumonia.
- Inability to perform self-care. As dementia progresses, it becomes difficult to do bathing, dressing, brushing hair or teeth, using the toilet independently and taking medications as directed.
- Death. Late-stage dementia results in coma and death, often from infection.
There is no certain way to prevent dementia but ways to decrease the risk.
- Keep your mind active. Mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, solving puzzles and playing word games, and memory training might delay the onset of dementia and decrease its effects.
- Be physically and socially active. Physical activity and social interaction might delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week.
- Quit smoking. Quitting smoking might reduce your risk and will improve your health.
- Get enough vitamins. People with low levels of vitamin D are more prone to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
- Manage cardiovascular risk factors. Treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Treat health conditions. See your doctor for treatment for depression or anxiety.
- Maintain a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in certain fish and nuts
• Get good-quality sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene daily