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.
Some Areas of the Brain Affected by Dementia
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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:
- Having other people in your family who have it
- Down syndrome
- Having health problems that damage the heart and blood vessels, such as:
Symptoms start slowly and get worse with time. They may be:
- 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- Being withdrawn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 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