Dementia itself is not a disease. Instead, the word “dementia” covers several symptoms caused by brain disorders, such as stroke or Alzheimer’s Disease.
People with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions. For example, they might have problems with speech and memory.
Among other things, dementia can:
- Hinder a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks, such as eating or dressing.
- Cause personality changes.
- Lead to a person’s inability to control their emotions.
Researchers have identified several risk factors associated with developing dementia. Some of these are:
- Age – (the chances of suffering from dementia increase with age; people older than 65 are at greater risk)
- Family history
- Smoking and/or alcohol use
- High cholesterol
- Down’s syndrome
- Repeated or severe head injury
Types of Dementia
- Lewy Body Dementia - One of the most common types of progressive dementia, this is distinguished by progressive cognitive decline, pronounced fluctuations in alertness and attention, recurrent visual hallucinations and Parkinson's-like motor symptoms, such as rigidity and loss of spontaneous movement.
- Frontotemporal Dementia - This condition often runs in families and is distinguished by shrinking of the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain. Symptoms involve changes in behavior (impulsive or bored and listless, inappropriate social behavior) or difficulty making or understanding speech.
- Vascular Dementia - A common cause of memory loss in the elderly, this is caused by multiple strokes, which leads to damaged brain tissue. Symptoms include confusion or problems with short-term memory; wandering, or getting lost in familiar places; walking with rapid, shuffling steps; losing bladder or bowel control; laughing or crying inappropriately; having difficulty following instructions; and having problems counting money and making monetary transactions.
The symptoms of dementia are treated with medications. While medications cannot cure dementia, they may improve or slow symptoms.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some actions may prevent or slow dementia in some people. For example, NIH cites studies that have shown that people who control their diabetes tend to score better on brain tests than those who do not. Other studies have found that people who often take part in brain-related activities, such as playing games, doing crossword puzzles, or playing a musical instrument can lower their risk of developing dementia.
Lifestyle choices also may prevent or slow dementia in some people. It appears that staying physically active, socially connected and mentally engaged may lower the risk of developing dementia.