Dementia is a general term for memory loss. It also causes issues with thinking, communicating and physical movement. These symptoms can severely impact an individual’s daily life and their personal relationships, including their relationship with themselves.
Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells. This exact damage interferes with the brain cells’ abilities to communicate with one another causing difficulties with thinking, speaking and feelings.
There is no one test to determine whether or not an individual has dementia. Doctors diagnose dementia by examining an individual’s medical history, carrying out a physical examination, doing laboratory tests and evaluating the characteristic changes in their day to day thinking, speech and behaviour. It can, however, be difficult for a medical professional to determine exactly which type of dementia a person has.
There is a long list of types of dementia. The main common case of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a physical disease that affects the brain. The brain is made up of a billion nerve cells that connect to one another. In Alzheimer’s disease, the connection between these cells is lost. This is because protein builds up and form abnormal structures in the brain called plaques and tangles. As a result of this, nerve cells eventually die and brain tissue is lost. The brain also contains important chemicals that help send signals between cells. People with Alzheimer’s have less of some of these ‘chemical messengers’ in their brain so the signals are not passed on as well. Alzheimer’s is a condition that gets progressively worse over time.
The second most common type of dementia is Vascular Dementia. Vascular Dementia is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels. In order to be healthy and functioning, our brain cells need a constant supply of blood to bring nutrients and oxygen. Blood is delivered to the brain through a network of vessels known as the vascular system. If the vascular system within the brain becomes damaged, so that the blood vessels leak or become blocked, then the blood cannot reach the brain cells and they will eventually die. The death of these brain cells can cause problems and difficulties with memory, thinking and reasoning. Together, this trio of elements are known as cognition. When these cognitive elements are severe enough to have an impact of an individuals’ daily life, this is known as Vascular Dementia.
Other types of dementia include Young Onset Dementia, Mixed Dementia, Dementia with Lewy-bodies and Fronto-temporal dementia. Young Onset Dementia is where an individual develops dementia before the age of 65. Mixed Dementia is where an individual has more than one type of dementia at the same time. Dementia with Lewy-bodies is a type of dementia that shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) is one of the less common types of dementia. The first most common symptoms of FTD are changes to personality and behaviour and/or difficulties with language.
There is no current cure for Dementia but there is advice on how to reduce the risk of developing the condition. One of the first bits of advice was to be physically active and take part in aerobic activities that are good for your heart. This could include brisk walking, swimming, cycling and running. The second bit of advice was to eat a balanced diet and reduce sugar intake, eat more protein and eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Other tips included drink more water, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol. Exercising your mind is also a crucial part in reducing your risk. Ways of doing this could be studying for a new qualification, doing puzzles and quizzes and reading challenging books. Last but not least, a super important thing to do to reduce your risk of dementia is to go see your doctor if you have any early concerns as tackling dementia early is crucial.
For any more information relating to dementia and the types of dementia, I have listed a few links below.