The two most common causes of dementia in older people are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, a condition that involves changes to the brain’s blood supply. Vascular dementia often arises from stroke or arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in the brain.
Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Subscribe to E-News to learn how you can help those affected by Alzheimer’s.
Common causes of dementia are:
The 10 warning signs of dementia
Most cases of sudden confusion and rapidly progressing dementia in an elderly person are due to delirium caused by infection. Urinary infections and pneumonia can trigger acute confusion that comes on quickly, causing people to be incoherent, muddled and disorientated.
There’s no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, as researchers are still investigating how the condition develops. However, there’s good evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing dementia when you’re older.
Dementia is usually caused by degeneration in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for thoughts, memories, actions, and personality. Death of brain cells in this region leads to the cognitive impairments that characterise dementia.
The current evidence indicates that while prolonged stress may play a role in the development or progression of dementia, having chronic stress does not necessarily cause dementia.
The MIND diet specifically limits red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food. You should have fewer than 4 servings a week of red meat, less than a tablespoon of butter a day, and less than a serving a week of each of the following: whole-fat cheese, fried food, and fast food.
Dementia mainly affects people over the age of 65 (one in 14 people in this age group have dementia), and the likelihood of developing dementia increases significantly with age. However, dementia can affect younger people too.
The majority of dementia is not inherited by children and grandchildren. In rarer types of dementia there may be a strong genetic link, but these are only a tiny proportion of overall cases of dementia.
For example, they cite 2012 research that found afternoon naps delay the onset of dementia, and yet another study concluding afternoon sleepiness may increase the risk of dementia or cognitive decline.
Does someone with dementia know they have it? Families often ask “are dementia patients aware of their condition?” In some cases, the short answer is no, they’re not aware they have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Physical activity is a key factor for brain health. Regular exercise as simple as brisk walking for as little as 15 minutes a day protects brain structure and function. Eat healthily. A Mediterranean diet consisting of fish, olive oil, nonstarchy vegetables, and nuts has been related to lower risk of dementia.
Symptoms can sometimes develop suddenly and quickly get worse, but they can also develop gradually over many months or years.
There is currently no “cure” for dementia. In fact, because dementia is caused by different diseases it is unlikely that there will be a single cure for dementia. Research is aimed at finding cures for dementia-causing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.