Dementia is characterized by the deterioration of memory, judgement, and cognitive function outside of normal aging, which interferes with daily activities. Dementia is progressive and most commonly affects older adults. Dementia can be categorized into five different types: Alzheimer's Disease, frontotemporal disorders, Lewy Body Dementia, Vascular Dementia, and mixed-type dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia.
Dementia is caused by damage or loss of brain cells, which interferes with cognitive function over time. Vascular Dementia is caused by damage to blood vessels supplying blood to the brain, and Lewy Body Dementia is caused by balloon-like clumping of certain proteins in the brain. In Alzheimer’s Disease, proteins clump together to form what’s known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Over time, these clumps prevent brain cells from working properly, which causes them to die. Ultimately, the brain begins shrinking over a period of time, resulting in cognitive decline. Brain tumors, diabetes, certain infections, emotional stress, thyroid disease, kidney disease, liver disease, excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, and/or certain medications can also play a role in the causation of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Risk factors include aging, family history of dementia, poor dieting, poor exercise and social activity, obesity, poor sleep patterns, smoking, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia include:
Changes in mood or personality
Becoming lost in familiar surroundings
Difficulty recognizing close friends and family
There is currently no known treatment for Alzheimer’s or dementia; however, certain medications can help delay progression or improve symptoms. Many individuals with Alzheimer’s enroll in clinical trials to help test developing treatment methods. The best option for treatment is for family members to find professional support and to plan safely for the future. Establishing routines is especially important. In some cases of dementia caused by external factors, medical treatment can reverse symptoms.
To help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, individuals should be proactive in eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, participating in social activities, engage in mind stimulating activities (puzzles, reading, memorizing, etc.), refrain from smoking or consuming excess amounts of alcohol, maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight, and see a physician regularly to effectively treat all health conditions.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, June 02). Alzheimer's disease. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, December 29). Alzheimer's disease. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, April 19). Dementia. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013
National Institute on Aging. (2017, December 31). What is dementia? Symptoms, types, and diagnosis. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-dementia-symptoms-types-and-diagnosis
National Institute on Aging. (2019, May 22). Alzheimer's disease fact sheet. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet
World Health Organization. (2020, September 21). Dementia. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia