Dementia defines a collection of signs affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It is not a particular disease, but several different diseases may cause dementia.
Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes. Having memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia.
Symptoms of Dementia
Symptoms of dementia vary according to the cause, but typical symptoms include:
- Loss of memory, which is usually found by a partner or someone else
- Difficulty in speaking or remembering words
- Difficulty with visual and spatial skills, like being lost while driving
- Difficulty problem-solving
- Difficulty handling complicated tasks
- Difficulty with planning and scheduling
- Difficulty with balance and motor functions
- Confusion and disorientation
- Changes in personality
- Inappropriate conduct
When to see a doctor
Whether you or a loved one has memory issues or other signs of dementia see a doctor. Some treatable medical conditions may cause a sign of dementia, so it is necessary to identify the underlying cause.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia is caused by nerve cell damage or failure, and their connections within the brain. Depending on the region of the brain that’s affected by the damage, dementia can affect people differently and cause different signs.
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 damaged brain. Some diseases look like dementias, such as those caused by a reaction to drug or vitamin deficiencies, and can be improved with treatment.
Risk factors of Dementia
Many factors can eventually contribute to dementia. Some factors, such as age, can’t be changed. Others can be addressed to reduce your risk.
Risk factors that can’t be changed
- Age: The risk rises as you age, mainly after the age of 60. However, dementia isn’t a normal part of ageing, and dementia can occur in younger people.
- Family history: Having a family history of dementia puts you at greater risk of developing the condition. However, many people with a family history never develop symptoms, and many people without a family history do. There are tests to determine whether you have certain genetic mutations.
- Down syndrome: By middle age, many people with Down syndrome develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
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Risk factors you can change
You might be able to control the following risk factors for dementia.
- Diet and exercise: Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia. And while no specific diet is known to reduce dementia risk, research indicates a greater incidence of dementia in people who eat an unhealthy diet compared with those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in produce, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- Heavy alcohol use: If you drink large amounts of alcohol, you might have a higher risk of dementia. While some studies have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol might have a protective effect, results are inconsistent. The relationship between moderate amounts of alcohol and dementia risk isn’t well-understood.
- Depression: Although not yet well-understood, late-life depression might indicate the development of dementia.
- Diabetes: Having diabetes may increase your risk of dementia, especially if it’s poorly controlled.
- Smoking: Smoking might increase your risk of developing dementia and blood vessel (vascular) diseases.
- Sleep apnea: People who snore and have episodes where they frequently stop breathing while asleep may have reversible memory loss.
- Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies: Low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate may increase your risk of dementia.
Dementia can affect many functions of the body and, therefore, the ability to operate. Dementia can lead to:
- Bad nutrition: Most dementia suffering people eventually decrease or stop eating, affecting their nutrient consumption. By the end, they may not be able to chew and swallow.
- Pneumonia: Swallowing trouble raises the risk of aspirating food into the lungs, which can block breathing and cause pneumonia.
- Inability to perform self-care tasks:. As dementia progresses, it can interfere with bathing, dressing, brushing hair or teeth, using the toilet independently, and taking medications accurately.
- Personal safety challenges:. Some day-to-day situations can present safety issues for people with dementia, including driving, cooking and walking alone.
- Death. Late-stage dementia leads to coma and death, often resulting from infection.
Prevention Tips of Dementia
There’s no sure way to prevent dementia, but you can take some steps that might help. More research is needed, but the following could be beneficial:
- Keep your mind active: Mentally stimulating practices, like reading, solving puzzles and playing word games, and memory training Be physically and socially engaged and active. The onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms could be delayed by physical activity and social interaction. Move more and plan to exercise 140 minutes a week.
- Stop smoking: Some research has shown that smoking in middle age and beyond can increase your risk of dementia and blood vessel conditions. Quitting smoking can reduce risk and enhance your health.
- Treat health conditions: If you experience hearing loss, depression or anxiety see your doctor for treatment.
- Maintain a good diet: Eating a healthy diet is vital for several reasons, but a diet such as the Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in some fish and nuts can promote health and reduce your risk of developing dementia. This form of diet also improves cardiovascular health and can help to reduce the risk of dementia. Try to eat fatty fish like salmon three times a week, and a handful of nuts particularly almonds and walnuts every day.
- Get good sleep: Practice good sleep hygiene and if you snore loudly or have periods where you stop breathing or gasping during sleep, speak with your doctor.