Dementia is viewed as a serious condition, particularly when considering the ageing population. Its effects a person’s behaviour and functional capacity and have serious implications for how well they can interact with other individuals. Dementia does not identify as a disease but instead is an umbrella term presented to a range of diseases caused by cognitive impairment affecting memory, thinking, and communication abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most relevant example of dementia
Some of the common symptoms are
- Memory Loss
- Difficulty in thinking and understanding
- Mental Confusion
- Inability to complete basic cognitive tasks
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
Causes and Risk Factors
Biologically, dementia is caused by damage to or loss of brain’s nerve cells and connections. The interfering damage prevents brain cells from communicating with one another, as a result cognitive functions such as thinking, behaviour, along with feelings might be impacted when brain cells are unable to interact correctly.
Although some of the risk factors for dementia may be adjusted by the individual, some remain beyond their control.
Risk factors that cannot be controlled by the individual include:
- Age: The brain’s vulnerability to damage to brain cells increases as people grow old.
- Family: Dementia within the medical history of the family significantly increases the likelihood of someone developing the disease.
- Mental Health Disorders
Risk factors within control of the individual include:
- Unhealthy Diet
- Low consistency of exercise and physical activity
- Alcohol Intake
Types of Dementia
- Alzheimer– With the progression of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent. Forgetting names and recent events, disregarding personal hygiene, changing mood or attitude, becoming disoriented, and other symptoms are some of the early indications of Alzheimer’s disease. Confusion and mood swings are more likely to occur as the illness worsens. They have difficulty speaking and walking.
- Vascular Dementia– It results from insufficient blood supply to the brain. The most frequent cause of vascular dementia is strokes. Early warning symptoms might include confusion and disorientation. In some cases, vascular dementia can occasionally result in hallucinations.
- Parkinson’s Disease Dementia– Dementia is a common complication of Parkinson’s disease. Problems with logic and judgement are early indicators of this type of dementia. As the illness worsens, a lot of people start to feel melancholy or paranoid. Others have difficulty communicating and may fumble through a sentence or lose their place in a discussion.
- Lewy Body Dementia– It is brought on by protein build-up in nerve cells. Memory loss and disorientation result from the interruption of these chemical messengers in the brain. Additionally, they begin experiencing visual hallucinations and individuals with this form of dementia also have difficulty falling asleep at night or wake up abruptly in the middle of the day. Furthermore, some might pass out, become lost, or become confused as well.
- Mixed Dementia- When a person has more than one type of dementia, it is referred to as mixed dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most typical combinations of mixed dementia, which is quite frequent. Distinct persons may experience different symptoms of mixed dementia. While some people first notice mood and behaviour changes, others first experience memory loss and disorientation. As the condition advances, most people with mixed dementia will have trouble speaking and moving about.
Fundamentally, there is no direct treatment for dementia. Medicine can temporarily control certain symptoms and provide patients with a minimal level of care by raising levels of a chemical messenger critical to memory and judgement. However, the dependable and long-lasting treatment for dementia emphasises the need of adopting lifestyle practices that reduce the risk of dementia.
Engaging in various activities that improve physical and mental strength makes a substantial contribution to maintaining a healthy cognitive brain and delaying the emergence of dementia symptoms.
When the brain is maintained active, it is believed that both the number of healthy brain cells and the connections between them increase. It is witnessed that those who are mentally active are less prone to have cognitive deterioration. As a result, persons who exhibit dementia symptoms and are susceptible to its risk factors are routinely recommended brain-training exercises like games and puzzles.
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which improves learning and memory. Additionally, it has been shown to increase mental wellbeing, reduce stress, and increase attentiveness. These benefits are essential since people with dementia frequently experience higher amounts of stress than average people. The benefits of physical activities may result from increases in blood flow to the brain, which elevates oxygen levels there and aids the brain in fending off the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s disease. According to a growing body of evidence, physical activity can help decrease or even stop dementia from developing in persons who already have other dementia risk factors (such as a family history).
If dementia risk indicators are present in a person, it is imperatively advised to seek expert assistance and go to the local hospital to guarantee a good outcome and general standards of wellbeing.
Dr. Bhakti Gajjar, Consultant Neurologist, HCG Hospitals, Ahmedabad