What is Dementia?
- BRAIN HEALTH
- Content Team
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The older we get the more prone we are to age-related diseases, some of the most common ones being dementia-related diseases. These diseases all greatly decrease our cognitive function, making day-to-day activities difficult, and even decreasing our longevity. It’s important to understand the signs of dementia so you can recognize the symptoms in yourself or a loved one. We will go over dementia, the stages of dementia, the types of dementia, and treatment options.
What Is Dementia?
It’s important to note that dementia is not a single disease but the definition of dementia is an overall term - similar to heart disease. Some of the disorders that fall under the dementia umbrella include Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body dementia, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Parkinson’s. Mixed dementia is also included, which is dementia from more than one cause.
These diseases trigger a decline in thinking skills which makes regular daily activities more difficult. They can also affect your behavior, feelings, and relationships. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. It’s important to note that contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a normal part of aging.
What Are The 7 Stages of Dementia?
Understanding the stages of dementia can help you take care of yourself, a friend, or a loved one if you notice any of the said stages. A three-stage model is popular when describing the stages of dementia but most people prefer a seven-stage model. Here are the seven stages and signals to look out for:
- Normal Behavior - Early on there may be no visible symptoms but several changes can be happening in the brain.
- Forgetfulness - At this stage, a person with dementia may begin to forget things easily, although not to the point where the memory loss can be distinguished.
- Mild decline - Visible changes become more apparent as the person may begin to frequently lose their items or forget appointments. This stage can last up to seven years.
- Moderate decline - This begins the later stages of dementia where signs and symptoms become clear to everyone. The length of this stage is one-to-two years long.
- Moderately severe decline - Someone in this stage of dementia will need more help with day-to-day living. This stage lasts around 1.5 years.
- Severe decline - This stage requires constant supervision at home. People in this stage will need help with washing and dressing. Experts believe that this stage can last around 2.5 years.
- Very severe decline - Unfortunately, most people pass away before this stage of dementia, often as a result of other health conditions. People in this stage will need round-the-clock care and help with day-to-day living and feeding.
If you are living with a person with dementia, it’s important to understand that the person no longer has a proper understanding of what’s happening. It will require patience and understanding on your part.
What Are The Warning Signs of Dementia?
The early signs of dementia can be subtle and not obvious, especially to those without the training and expertise to make a diagnosis. Early signs may vary but there are some very similar symptoms across diagnoses. If you notice any of the warning signs below, consult a doctor and they will provide you with treatment options:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with tasks
- Language issues
- Changes in abstract thinking
- Poor judgment
- Poor spatial skills
- Misplacing things
- Loss of initiative
It’s important to note that there are many conditions that have similar symptoms as dementia. This is why it’s important to consult with your doctor if you notice any of these signs. Many conditions can be treated with proper treatment options.
What Are The 5 Types of Dementia?
As we mentioned earlier at the top of the article, dementia is not a single disease but instead a definition that encompasses many different diseases. Each of these diseases have similar dementia symptoms, but there are some differences. Here are the five main types of dementia:
- Alzheimer’s Disease - This is the most common dementia type. It is the consequence of an abnormal shrinkage of the brain.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies - This disease has symptoms similar to Parkinson’s such as tremors and stiffness. It also comes with sleeping disorders and vivid hallucinations.
- Vascular Dementia - A stroke or vascular accident can cause Alzheimer-like symptoms such as memory disorders and bad decision making.
- Frontotemporal Dementia - This disease affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain which can cause a loss of functionality and behavior.
- Mixed Dementia - A person with this disorder is suffering from two different types of dementia.
A doctor will be able to provide you with an accurate diagnosis. It’s important to seek professional help because each type of dementia will require specific treatments.
What Is The Main Cause of Dementia?
While research has come a long way in recent years there is still plenty about dementia that we don’t know. Mainly, we are still unsure as to how exactly dementia forms and whether or not it’s avoidable. What researchers do know is that dementia is caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain.
Each person will be affected by dementia differently as it will affect different areas of the brain and there will be varying levels of damage. Here are some risk factors that can contribute to dementia:
- Age - The older you get the more at risk you are of dementia.
- Family history - If your family has a history of dementia you are at a greater risk.
- Down syndrome - Many people with Down syndrome develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
- Diet and exercise - A lack of exercise increases the chance of dementia as does an unhealthy diet.
- Heavy alcohol consumption - Researchers believe that moderate drinking can actually decrease your chances of dementia, however, heavy drinking greatly raises your chances.
- Cardiovascular risk factors - High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and buildup of fats can increase your chances of dementia.
- Depression - It’s not quite understood the exact role depression plays on dementia but experts agree that there is a link.
- Smoking - Smoking can increase your chances of developing dementia and vascular diseases.
By implementing a healthy lifestyle you can greatly lower your chances of getting dementia. The benefits of a healthy lifestyle extend beyond decreasing your chances of dementia. A healthy lifestyle can help increase your longevity, helping you live a longer, healthier life.
How Does Vascular Dementia Start?
Vascular dementia, one of the main types of dementia, develops when brain cells are deprived of oxygen and die. This is usually due to disease in the small blood vessels in the brain or after a major stroke or a series of small strokes. It can be difficult to tell the differences between Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
As we mentioned earlier, it is also possible for someone to suffer from a mixed form of dementia, meaning the person has both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Subcortical vascular dementia usually develops gradually and progresses slowly, like Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, when vascular dementia follows a large stroke, symptoms usually develop suddenly.
Are Dementia and Alzheimer's The Same?
As we have stated several times throughout this article that dementia is an overall term used to describe symptoms that impact memory while Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and gets worse with time. Both conditions can cause a decline in the ability to think, memory impairment, and communication impairment. Here are some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s that differ from other types of dementia:
- Impaired judgment
- Behavioral changes
The type of treatment needed for Alzheimer’s will also differ from the treatment options for other types of dementia. A doctor will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis, allowing the patient and their family to seek the right treatment plan. It should be noted that unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. Treatment options aim to slow the spread of the disease.
Supplements Can Help Support Your Brain Health
One substance that can help prevent cognitive dissonance, as well as other aging side-effects, is spermidine. This is because spermidine helps induce something called autophagy. This is the body’s process of replacing old and potentially damaged cell parts with newer, healthier ones, resulting in healthier cells. Autophagy literally means ‘self-eat.’
This process helps keep you feeling and looking young while also dramatically lowering your chances of developing aging diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. While it is possible to get your recommended daily intake of spermidine through your diet, it’s recommended to take supplements so you ensure you get the right dose. Simply taking your supplements with your dinner is a great way to remember to take spermidine supplements every night.