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 and self care.
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Many health problems can be a cause. Some common ones are:
It is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
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- Being withdrawn
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health past. A physical exam will be done. Tests on memory, thought processes, and nervous system will also be done. Images of the brain may be taken with:
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
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
The exact cause of dementia is not known. General tips for brain health include:
- Exercise regularly. Aim for 150 minutes or more of activity each week.
- Eat a healthful diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, olive oil, and fish.
- If you drink, drink in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
- Stop smoking.
- Reach or stay at a healthy weight.
- Manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
- Look for ways to challenge and grow mental abilities throughout life. This could mean learning new skills or mental games and puzzles.
Alzheimer Society Canada
Toronto Dementia Network
Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alzheimer-dementia. Accessed October 14, 2020.
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. Accessed October 14, 2020.
Dementia evaluation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/dementia-evaluation. Accessed October 14, 2020.
Moga DC, Roberts M, et al. Dementia for the Primary Care Provider. Prim Care. 2017 Sep;44(3):439-456.
Last reviewed October 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 12/18/2020