Dementia is a scary word. And it can be an even scarier disease. Having a clear understanding of what dementia is can help you face the road ahead with a little bit more confidence.
What is Dementia?
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. (Source) These disorders can be caused by injury or brain disease.
The hallmark of dementia is the inability to carry out everyday activities because of diminished cognitive ability.
The most common functions that are impaired by the onset of dementia are:
- Language skills
- Problem solving
- Visual perception
- Ability to stay focused and pay attention
Those suffering with dementia may also struggle with agitation and controlling their emotions. Additionally, they may experience personality changes, delusions, or hallucinations.
Unfortunately, dementia is progressive, gradually spreading through the brain and worsening symptoms over time.
Types of Dementia
There are a variety of forms of dementia based on the brain disease causing it. Often more than one disease affects the brain, causing mixed dementia. The most common forms of dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s disease: this is the most common form that typically begins with memory loss.
- Vascular dementia: this form is caused by damaged blood vessels and often occurs after a stroke.
- Lewi body disease: those with this form can often fluctuate between normal attention and thinking to sever confusion.
- Frontotemporal dementia: this form impairs behavioral or language skills, often both.
What Causes Dementia?
Dementia is not one specific disease. The symptoms a person may experience depends on the areas of the brain that are impacted by the disease causing the dementia.
Often with dementia, certain nerve cells in the brain will completely stop functioning, losing connections with other cells and ultimately dying.
The most common causes of dementia are related to:
- old age
- lifestyle (lack of healthy eating and exercise)
- health (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity)
- head injury
How to Prevent Dementia
There is no way to guarantee prevention of dementia. Fortunately, taking care of your health can dramatically reduce your risk. At the very least, a healthy lifestyle could hold off dementia until much later years. Staying active, eating well, and challenging your cognitive abilities on a regular basis will go a long way in protecting yourself from the difficulties of dementia.