Did you know that dementia can be a catch-all phrase for a number of diseases, and does not refer to just one illness?
It’s a common misconception, but there is a lot more to dementia than people realize – and it goes beyond Alzheimer’s. In this article, I want to cover the bare bones of dementia, the diseases it’s associated with, and how you can start taking steps today to prevent this progressive illness.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is the “loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.” Like heart disease, it can refer to a number of illnesses and diseases, but it is generally caused by damage to brain cells.
As a result, symptoms of dementia can vary by quite a bit. Some of the common signs include
• Short term memory
• Problems with daily tasks including cooking and appointment setting
• Difficulty communicating
• Problems with complex tasks
• Coordination issues
• Difficulty reasoning
• Personality changes
• and more
Dementia is usually diagnosed through a number of tests including laboratory tests, physical examination, and previous medical history. It will require appointments to specialists in order to be diagnosed and treated.
Different Types of Dementia
Dementia can be linked to a number of different causes and illnesses. Some are irreversible, while others can get better with treatment.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, but there is still much unknown about this disease. However, it is progressive, causes plagues and tangles in the brain, and impacts thought control, memory, and language. It is usually thought of as progressive, but the book by Dale Bredesen, The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline, explores new ideas regarding its prevention and potential reversal.
Vascular dementia, on the other hand, affects blood supply as there is damage to the blood vessels. These can cause strokes, damage the fibers, and lead to issues with focus and organization.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia is another common type of dementia; protein clumps can be found on the brain with this disease. Hallucinations, issues with focus, and tremors are usually associated with it.
Frontotemporal dementia doesn’t refer to a single disease, but several that can affect behavior, thinking, judgment, personality, and more. In these diseases, nerve cells break down in the brain.
Other Causes of Dementia
There are a few other illnesses and diseases linked to dementia. These can include
• Mixed dementia
◦ Over the age of 80, it has been found that many individuals with dementia have
more than one disease causing the illness.
• Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
• Huntington’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
The diseases listed above are generally thought to be irreversible. However, there are some causes of dementia that can be turned around or treated. Some examples are:
• Immune disorders
• Endocrine problems
• Low blood sugar
• Vitamin deficiencies
• Side effects from medication
• Brain tumors
• Excess alcohol
• and more
Preventing and Treating Dementia
If you or a loved one are showing signs of confusion, brain fog, or other symptoms related to dementia, it’s important to see a doctor right away. The tips below can help you, but they should not be taken as medical advice – all advice should come from your doctor. Keep reading though to see general advice for preventing and treating dementia.
First, whether you’re showing signs of dementia or not, it’s important to know your risk factors. Some cannot be helped – such as your age or genetics – but there are lifestyle changes that you can make today to lower your chances of developing the disease.
Common recommendations are:
Improve Your Diet
Since dementia can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, it’s important to pay special attention to your diet. A healthy meal plan can not only prevent dementia, it can also improve other aspects of your life. Those who follow a Mediterranean diet, for example, have been found to have lower incidences of dementia.
It’s also highly recommended that you limit your alcohol intake. Early-onset dementia has been linked to excess alcohol.
Exercise, both physical and mental, has also been shown to lower risk of dementia. You should focus more on stimulating activities, including reading and memory training, and exercising at least 150 minutes each week.
Smoking doesn’t only cause cancer – it can be responsible for a number of other health issues, including dementia. It has been found that smoking, especially after middle age, can result in dementia, blood vessel conditions, and more.
Talk to your Doctor About Other Health Concerns
Other health factors and illnesses that can be treated have been linked to dementia. Talk to your doctor about:
• Your risk for diabetes
• Vitamin deficiencies
• Depression and anxiety
• Sleep issues including sleep apnea
• Cardiovascular health
• Medications, including over the counter sleep aids, urinary urgency, and sedatives, as
these have been linked to worsening memory
Dementia can be scary – and it’s likely you’ve known someone who has suffered from one of these diseases. Being more educated about your risk, risk factors, and prevention can help you reduce your chances of suffering from it yourself.
If you want to learn more about lowering your risk and preventing dementia, it’s important to talk to a doctor. Schedule an appointment with us to talk about your health today.
“Dementia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Oct. 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013.
“What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Oct. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm.
“What Is Dementia?” Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia.