Dementia

Definition

Dementia is a loss in mental skills, such as the ability to think, reason, learn, and understand. It causes problems with day-to-day tasks.

Some Areas of the Brain Affected by Dementia

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Causes

Many health problems can be a cause. Some common ones are:

Risk Factors

It is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Symptoms start slowly and get worse with time. They may be:

  • Memory loss
  • Lack of focus
  • Problems making choices or plans
  • Problems naming things
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Mood swings
  • Slowness when moving
  • Being withdrawn

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Cognitive tests and nervous system tests will also be done.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

Treatment

There is no cure. The goal is to manage it. This can be done with medicines, such as:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors to treat changes in thinking
  • Memantine to decrease abnormal activity in the brain

Lifestyle Changes

These changes may also be helpful:

  • Getting light exercise
  • Making the home a calm and safe place
  • Getting personal comfort needs met, such as hunger, thirst, and emotions
  • Using memory aides
  • Choosing a healthcare proxy and a legal power of attorney

Prevention

The cause of dementia is not known. Healthy habits may help lower the risk. Here are some tips:

  • Exercise regularly. Aim for 150 minutes or more of activity each week.
  • Eat a healthful diet that is rich in fruits, veggies, grains, beans, seeds, olive oil, and fish.
  • Drinking alcohol may help lower the risk, but it should be used in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. Drinking too much can raise the risk of dementia.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Reach or stay at a healthy weight.
  • Manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Cognitive training programs may maintain brain function.

RESOURCES:

Alzheimer's Association
http://www.alz.org
American Academy of Neurology
http://www.aan.com

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Alzheimer Society Canada
http://www.alzheimer.ca
Toronto Dementia Network
http://www.dementiatoronto.org

References:

Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alzheimer-dementia . Updated August 9, 2019. Accessed October 14, 2019.
Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet. Updated April 1, 2018. Accessed October 14, 2019.
Dementia evaluation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/dementia-evaluation . Updated August 21, 2019. Accessed October 14, 2019.
Moga DC, Roberts M, et al. Dementia for the Primary Care Provider. Prim Care. 2017 Sep;44(3):439-456.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 10/14/2019

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