Dementia is not a single disease. Rather, it is a broad term that describes a range of symptoms. These symptoms can affect a person’s memory and ability to think, process information, and communicate with others.
According to the World Health Organization, more than fifty-five million people worldwide have dementia, and more than 10 million new cases are diagnosed each year. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, it is not the only one.
Although the symptoms of dementia can vary depending on the underlying cause, some key symptoms are common warning signs of the condition. One of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently acquired information.
Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions over and over, and an increased need to rely on memory aids (such as reminders or electronic devices) or family members to deal with things they used to do on their own.
What are typical age-related changes? Sometimes forget names or appointments but remember them later.
Common early symptoms of dementia
Different types of dementia affect people differently, and everyone experiences symptoms in their own way. However, some common early symptoms may occur in the period before dementia is diagnosed. These include:
- memory loss
- difficulty concentrating
- Experiencing great difficulty performing familiar everyday tasks, such as shopping for confusion about the correct change
- difficulty holding a conversation or finding the right words
- Confusion about time and place
- mood swings
These symptoms are usually mild and may only gradually worsen. It is often called “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI) because the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. If you have these symptoms, you may not notice them, and family and friends may not notice or take them seriously for a while. For some people, these symptoms stay the same and do not get worse. But some people with MCI go on to develop dementia.
Dementia is not part of natural aging. Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor early if you are concerned about memory problems or other symptoms.
Symptoms characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Memory problems, such as frequent forgetting of recent events, names, and faces
- repeated questions
- Increased difficulty performing tasks and activities that require organization and planning
- get confused in an unfamiliar environment
- Difficulty finding the right word
- Difficulty handling money digitally and/or in stores
- become more withdrawn or anxious
Symptoms characteristic of vascular dementia
Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Some people have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, often called “mixed dementia.”
Symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, although memory loss may be less severe in the early stages. Symptoms sometimes develop suddenly and get worse quickly, but they can also develop gradually over months or years.
Specific symptoms may include:
- Stroke-like symptoms: including muscle weakness or temporary paralysis on one side of the body (these symptoms require emergency medical attention)
- Movement problems – difficulty walking or changes in the way a person walks
- Thinking problems – difficulties with attention, planning, and reasoning
- Mood changes – depression and emotional tendencies
Symptoms characteristic of dementia with Lewy bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies shares many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and people with the disease often also experience:
- periods of alertness or sleepiness, or fluctuations in the level of confusion
- Visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there)
- body movements slow down
- repeated falls and fainting
- sleep disorders
Symptoms characteristic of frontotemporal dementia
Although Alzheimer’s disease remains the most common type of dementia in people younger than sixty-five, this age group has a higher rate of frontotemporal dementia than older adults. Most cases are diagnosed in people between the ages of 45 and 65.
Early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia may include:
Personality changes – reduced sensitivity to the feelings of others, making people appear callous
Lack of social awareness – makes inappropriate jokes or shows a lack of wit, although some may become very withdrawn and reserved
Language problems – difficulty finding or understanding the right words
Obsessiveness – for example, cooking unusual foods, overeating
Symptoms of progressive dementia
Memory loss and communication difficulties often become severe as dementia progresses. At a later stage, a person is likely to neglect his health and requires constant care and attention. The most common symptoms of advanced dementia are:
Memory problems: People may not know close family and friends or remember where and where they live
Communication problems: Some people may eventually lose the ability to speak completely. Use non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, touch, and gestures that can help
Limited mobility: Many people have limited mobility without assistance. Some may end up unable to walk, needing a wheelchair, or being bedridden
Behavioral problems: A significant number of people develop what are called “behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia”. These may include increased anxiety, depressive symptoms, anxiety, wandering, aggression, or sometimes hallucinations
Bladder incontinence: This is common in advanced dementia and some people also have fecal incontinence
Problems with appetite and weight loss: These are common in advanced dementia. Many people have problems eating or swallowing, which can lead to choking, chest infections, and other problems.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
Dementia is caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain. But dementia is not a single disease. It is essentially an umbrella term that covers a wide range of cognitive impairments. This includes Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60-80 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Damage to nerve cells in the brain can occur for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
- Accumulation of specific types of proteins in the brain
- insufficient blood supply to the brain
- head injury
- lack of vitamins
- reactions to certain drugs
Risk factors for dementia
You cannot control some risk factors for dementia, such as your age, sex, gender, and family history. But other risk factors are what experts call “modifiable risk factors.” This means that you have the option to change them.
Early detection is important.
It can be difficult to know what to do if you notice one or more signs in yourself or others. It’s natural to feel insecure or nervous when discussing these changes with others. Expressing your health concerns can make them seem more “real”.
Or you may worry about upsetting someone by sharing observations about their abilities or changes in behavior. However, these are important health concerns that should be evaluated by a doctor, and it’s important to take steps to find out what’s going on.
Prevention of dementia
Although there is no proven way to prevent dementia, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease. It includes:
- Stay mentally active. Try to keep your mind active with scrabble, memory games, and reading.
- Be physically active. According to a 2021 study, people who exercise regularly are significantly less likely to develop dementia than those who do not engage in much physical activity.
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, quitting can improve the health of your blood vessels and many other aspects of your overall health and well-being.
- Increase your vitamin D intake. Take a vitamin D supplement or eat foods rich in vitamin D every day. balanced diet. A healthy diet has many benefits, including improving brain health. To reduce your risk of dementia, try eating a diet rich in:
- omega-3 fatty acids
- whole grain
The bottom line
Dementia is not a condition. Instead, it is a blanket term for many different conditions that affect the brain. These conditions can cause cognitive decline, which can affect a person’s memory, communication skills, thinking patterns, and behavior.
The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” are often used. But they are not the same. Alzheimer’s disease causes most cases of dementia, but many other diseases can affect a person’s memory or ability to process information. If you notice that you or a loved one is starting to have trouble with certain cognitive tasks, don’t ignore it. Contact our offices and speak to your counselor.
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