Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood or forgetting old memories and names of family members? It is a sign you might have dementia. Discovering the fact that you or your loved one have dementia can be highly stressful and distressing. But the more you realize about the condition, the more you can improve the outcome and take care of your loved one or yourself.
According to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, of those at least 65 years of age, there is an estimated 5.0 million adults with dementia in 2014 and projected to be nearly 14 million by 2060.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe several symptoms of cognitive decline, underlying diseases, and brain disorders. It is not solely a disease on its own but a general term describing symptoms of memory impairment, communication and thinking problems. There are various causes of dementia, but as the patient age increases, the disease becomes progressive, and some causes may become irreversible. However, it must be noted that the disease is not a normal part of aging. Many adults live their entire lives without developing dementia condition.
Symptoms of Dementia
The symptoms vary from person to person. However, there are several common signs that people deal with and are identified quickly. These may include problems with:
- Reasoning and judgement
Signs pointing to dementia include:
- Difficulty handling complex tasks.
- Misplacing things
- Decline in personal hygiene and wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather
- Getting lost
- Difficulty understanding visual images
- Faulty reasoning
- Neglecting nutrition
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with thinking abstract and being creative
- Forgetting home address, or forgetting where you put something
In some extreme cases, people can often face physiological changes such as personality change, paranoia, depression, anxiety, and hallucinations, which means it is time to see a doctor. Make sure to get the doctor involved as soon as you see someone suffering from the condition because early the cause is figured out, the early reversible action can be taken.
What Increases the Risk for Dementia?
Various factors can increase the risk for dementia, including:
- Age: One of the most substantial risk factors is aging, as most of the elderly get affected by the condition when they are over 65 years of age.
- Family history: People with siblings or parents dealing with dementia are more likely to develop the condition.
- Weak cardiac health: High blood pressure and high cholesterol increase the chances of boosting dementia.
- Poor health care: Smoking, heavy alcohol use, lack of exercise, and poor diet.
- Illnesses: Sleep apnea, down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.
Causes of Dementia
There aren’t any specific causes for dementia because every patient can show a different cause. However, the most common causes can include:
- Long-term alcohol or drug addiction can cause symptoms
- Brain injuries caused by falls, concussions, and car accidents can lead to trauma.
- Degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease contributes to dementia and get worse over time. Both of these are connected to brain illness and the dying of cells which make the disease progressive.
- Infections of the central nervous system can include HIV or meningitis
- Poor nutrition, dehydration or substance use like drugs and alcohol
It can affect various functioning abilities and can lead to:
- Personal safety challenges: Driving, walking alone, or even cooking can be dangerous for people with dementia.
- Poor nutrition: Elderly that deals with the condition eventually reduces or stops eating, which affects their nutrient intake.
- The inability of performing tasks independently: Brushing teeth or hair, dressing, changing, bathing, and taking medications becomes complicated as dementia progresses.
- Death: When it is recognized late, that stage often results in coma or death, mostly from infection
Doctors assess whether the person has underlying treatable conditions. Any early detection of symptoms is essential as some can be treated. A medical assessment can generally include questions about medical history, changes in behavior, or when the symptoms began. It can also include a physical exam or neurological tests like checking blood pressure, assessing balance or other sensory responses.
Laboratory tests, brain scans, genetic tests, psychiatric evaluation, or cognitive and neuropsychological test procedures help diagnose dementia.
Prevention and Treatment
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits and mental stimulation can help prevent dementia or delay its onset. If you’ve been diagnosed, it can even slow the onset of more unbearable symptoms. No matter how old you are or your family history, physical exercise can keep one physically fit. Try to exercise regularly, engage socially with people face-to-face as it can help make your memory stronger. Adopt a healthy diet and get plenty of quality sleep. Your mental health matters regardless. Any stress can take a heavy toll on your brain’s memory area and hamper nerve cell growth, worsening your condition. Other ways that can prove beneficial in this condition are as follows:
- Get enough vitamins. People with Alzheimer’s disease have low Vitamin D levels; therefore, try to gain as much Vitamin D as you can from foods, supplements, and sun exposure.
- Treat health conditions such as anxiety, depression to reduce the risk
- Quit smoking as smoking increases the risk of blood vessel conditions and risk of dementia
- Manage your cardiovascular risk factors as high bp and cholesterol and diabetes lead to higher risks of some types of dementia
There is no precise, proven or tested way to prevent the condition or to reverse brain cell damage. However, providing care and focus to the patient and treatment can possibly prevent brain tissue damage. To prevent the situation, there are some habits that the patient needs to adapt to for the body and mind to connect and start the treatment properly without any hinge. The excessive habit of smoking and alcohol must be gone at all costs. Diabetic patients need to be careful during this illness because proper prevention from medicines that have not been prescribed need to be followed and diet too for effective results.
The causes of dementia that can reverse include:
- Alcohol use
- Drug abuse
- Low blood sugar
- HIV associated neurocognitive disorders
- Metabolic disorders
Partially manageable but not reversible forms of dementia include:
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Vascular dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
Are you afraid that you or your loved one might have dementia? Consult a doctor today to prevent the risk of worsening the situation.