What is Dementia?

Dementia is a condition that takes into account several symptoms and is a general term that can be applied to different circumstances.

Risk of dementia increase with ages. In order for a condition to be classified as dementia, there must be at least two or more symptoms from the list below and it must be serious enough that it affects one’s daily quality of life.

Dementia can be degenerative (meaning that it is due to death of brain cells and not reversible) or non-degenerative (meaning that it is a side effect of an injury, medication, or a deficiency in vitamins.

What are the Symptoms of Dementia?

Dementia symptoms may be noticed by the person who has dementia or they may only be noticed by caregivers.

Symptoms include

  • Short term memory loss (for example, asking the same questions over and over again)
  • Language difficulties; being unable to come up with the right words or using incorrect words to communicate.
  • Losing things
  • Getting lost in familiar areas
  • Forgetting how to do things like making coffee or tying shoes
  • Problems with abstract thinking (like simple math)
  • Sudden or severe changes in mood
  • Sudden or sever personality changes
  • Lack of initiative to do things like going out or eating

Dementia Causes

Dementias are grouped by common features that include the areas of the brain being affected or if they happen to worsen over time (progressive dementias). Consequently, the causes of dementias are indicative of what defines them, such as those caused by a reaction to medications or vitamin deficiency.

Alzheimer’s disease is common in people aged 65 and older is the most common cause of dementia. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not currently known, tangles and plaques are typically found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. These plaques or clumps are made of a protein known as beta-amyloid, and the tangles are fibrous made up of tau protein, and doctors think they may be the cause. Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia occurring as a result of damage to the blood vessels in the brain. These problems with blood vessels are often caused by strokes or other blood vessel conditions.

Lewy body dementia is thought to be caused by Lewy bodies, abnormal clumps of protein, found in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Frontotemporal dementia is actually a group of diseases known to occur during the degeneration of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas generally linked with behavior, personality, and language.

How is Dementia Treated?

The type of treatment recommended by a doctor will depend on whether dementia is degenerative or non-degenerative. If dementia is degenerative there is no cure so treatment will focus on care and minimizing the side effects.

Non- degenerative dementia can sometimes be treated with medications like Donepezil, Alantamine, Rivastigmine, or Tacrine. Other drugs that may be used include memantine and cholinesterase inhibitors.

Dementia Prevention

According to medical researchers, the following can reduce the risk or effects of dementia:

Reducing stress

Studies have established a link between anxiety and the development of Alzheimer’s, particularly in those who already have a genetic risk of developing the disease. According to recent studies, people with mild cognitive impairment and higher levels of anxiety were around 135% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s at some point.

Regular diligent exercise

Exercising regularly can potentially preserve hippocampal volume, the first part of the brain that Alzheimer’s attacks. Good, rigorous exercise regimens like dancing, walking briskly, cycling, swimming, and even gardening are the preferred choices.

Running 15 miles a week

Research has shown that those who regularly run 15 miles per week can reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s-based dementia by 40%.

Drinking raw vegetable and fruit juices

According to a 2006 Vanderbilt University study, drinking fruit and vegetable juices three times a week or more might potentially cut a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s-based dementia by 76%.

Last Reviewed:
October 05, 2016
Last Updated:
December 13, 2017