Dementia affect people through a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and Pick’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.8 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s and the number would grow over the coming decades. However, a common misconception about dementia is that it only affect older adults. Health experts said that the disease is not a normal part of aging.
Since Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are expected to affect more people in the future, it is important to know how to prevent the disease. Some simple activities could protect you or a loved one against dementia.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT DEMENTIA?
Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected. The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions (for example, memory, judgment and movement). When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normally.
Different types of dementia are associated with particular types of brain cell damage in particular regions of the brain. For example, in Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other. The brain region called the hippocampus is the center of learning and memory in the brain and the brain cells in this region are often the first to be damaged. That’s why memory loss is often one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
While most changes in the brain that cause dementia are permanent and worsen over time, thinking and memory problems caused by the following conditions may improve when the condition is treated or addressed:
- Medication side effects
- Excess use of alcohol
- Thyroid problems
- Vitamin deficiencies
HOW TO PREVENT DEMENTIA
To help avoid dementia and its effects, researchers recommended avoiding certain products and activities to maintain health. The team said people should reduce consumption of sugar and salt and avoid or stop smoking cigarettes. High intake of anticholinergic drugs, such as antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-Parkinson drugs, anti-epilepsy drugs and bladder antimuscarinics, were also linked to increased dementia risk.