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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:
- Alzheimer dementia
- Brain damage after many small strokes
- Lewy body disease
- Front-temporal dementia, such as Pick disease
- Huntington disease
- Brain injury
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other prion disorders
- Parkinson disease
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 head trauma
- Having health problems that damage the heart and blood vessels, such as:
Symptoms start slowly and get worse with time. A person may have:
- Memory loss
- Lack of focus
- Problems making choices or plans
- Problems naming things
- Problems with getting lost in familiar places
- Mood swings
- Slowness when moving
- Pulled away from other people
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. 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:
The goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms. There is no cure for dementia. 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
- Eating a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean Diet or something like it
- 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.
- Dementia evaluation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/dementia-evaluation.
- How is Alzheimer's disease treated? National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-alzheimers-disease-treated.
- Moga, D.C., Roberts, M., et al. Dementia for the Primary Care Provider. Prim Care, 2017; 44(3): 439-456.
- What do we know about diet and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease? National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-do-we-know-about-diet-and-prevention-alzheimers-disease.