Dementia is an overall term that refers to a set of disorders affecting the brain, and whose symptoms are closely linked. While some assume that dementia refers to a specific disease, this isn’t the case. Instead, the term describes different illnesses with closely-linked symptoms (such as impaired judgment, memory loss and erratic mood swings). These symptoms also tend to get worse with age, as more brain cells become affected and eventually die.
Dementia is manifested by several disorders, the most common of which include:
–Alzheimer’s disease: This accounts for close to 70 percent of dementia cases. The condition occurs when protein abnormalities destroy links between brain cells, resulting in shrinkage of the total brain size.
–Vascular dementia: This occurs when poor blood supply as a result of a stroke (or several small strokes) affects the delivery of oxygen to the brain. Vascular dementia is said to account for about 20 percent of all cases of dementia.
–Lewy Body disease: The term ‘Lewy Bodies’ refers to abnormal protein clumps that appear in the brain. Besides hallucinations, their presence is also known to cause changes in one’s thinking, alertness and behavior.
Other types of dementia include Pick’s disease, posterior cortical atrophy, and normal pressure hydrocephalus.
Who Gets Dementia?
As you get older, your risk for dementia increases. About 1 in 14 individuals aged between 65 and 69 are affected. Among individuals older than 80, there’s a one in 4 chance of falling victim. On the other hand, it’s rare for someone under 65 to have dementia.
People with a family history of dementia are usually at a higher risk of developing the disorder. Women are also said to be more vulnerable, with about 67% of all victims being female. Other risk factors include HIV, as well as Parkinson’s and demyelinating disorders.
Memory Lapse or Memory Loss?
Knowing what dementia is and what it isn’t is very important. Almost everyone will forget things from time to time, and this is pretty common among the elderly. Memory lapses, however, don’t necessarily indicate the presence of dementia. More crucially, memory loss from dementia is quite different from forgetfulness.
With the latter, you’ll be able to tell when your brain lets you down. Memory loss resulting from dementia isn’t occasional, and is hardly registered by most victims. It also affects one’s ability to carry out routine tasks, such as how to walk, dress or recognize friends and relatives.
But when should you be worried? If your memory lapses are somewhat unusual, make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation. Memory loss becomes serious when an individual’s behavior changes drastically with time, when they consistently struggle to retain information, or if they tend to repeat themselves. Even in such cases, memory loss could be caused by factors not linked to dementia.
Diagnosing dementia can be quite difficult, especially if one doesn’t exhibit extreme symptoms. That being said, seeing a doctor for an appropriate and thorough evaluation is still crucial. The typical diagnosis will usually include questions about your symptoms, a review of other elements of your well-being, blood tests, as well as mental and physical exams. Because depression is closely linked to dementia, your doctor will likely check if you’re a victim as well.
Although dementia doesn’t have a cure, certain treatments are still used to manage some of its symptoms. Drugs such as Aricept and Solanezumab are used to diminish the rate at which Alzheimer’s progresses and the demise of brain cells respectively. Doctors also prescribe other medications for sleep problems, restlessness, apathy and hallucinations.
What Can You Do To Reduce Your Exposure?
Diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure and heart disease are just but some of the common risk factors associated with dementia. Generally, exercising and eating healthy food will reduce one’s exposure to these factors. Moderate alcohol consumption and quitting smoking will also help in minimizing your likelihood of getting dementia.