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Are You At Risk Of Dementia?


By Dr. Rajbans Singh | Consultant Geriatrician Hospital Pantai Bangsar | Fri Apr 24, 2015 5:11pm

Dementia

1. What is dementia?
Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s a term used to describe causes of memory loss in an older person. It's an overall term that describes a wide range 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 often incorrectly referred to as "senility" or "senile dementia", which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of ageing.

2. What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?
The common symptoms of dementia usually affect memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment and visual perception. However the first symptom is usually short term memory loss.

3. Who is most prevalent to it?
Dementia is a disease of older person and the risk increases with age. The prevalence of dementia doubles in frequency, every 5 years after the age of 60. Treatable causes of memory loss include depression, medication side effects, and excess use of alcohol, thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.     

4. What are the types of treatment available?
Treatment of dementia depends on its cause. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer's disease, there is no cure and treatment currently. There are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms. The same medications used to treat Alzheimer's are among the drugs sometimes prescribed to help with symptoms of other types of dementias. Certain drugs can slow down the progression of the disease and certain gingko derivatives can also help in prevention and progression of disease.

5. How can one prevent dementia?
Prevention includes physical and mental exercise, socially active and maintains a healthy diet like the Mediterranean or Okinawan diets. Don’t smoke. Keep blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within recommended limits and maintain a healthy weight.

6. Is there a possible link between dementia and heart diseases? If yes, can you tell us more about it?
What affects the heart also affects the brain. Your brain is nourished by one of your body's richest networks of blood vessels. Anything that damages blood vessels anywhere in your body can damage blood vessels in your brain, depriving brain cells of vital food and oxygen. Blood vessel changes in the brain are linked to vascular dementia. They often are present along with changes caused by other types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. These changes may interact to cause faster decline or make impairments more severe. You can help protect your brain with some of the same strategies that protect your heart – don't smoke; take steps to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within recommended limits; and maintain a healthy weight.

7. Can other health conditions be a cause of dementia?

Doctors have identified many other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions are reversible with appropriate treatment.

  • Reactions to medications
Medications can sometimes lead to reactions or side effects that mimic dementia. These dementia-like effects can occur in reaction to just one drug or they can result from drug interactions. They may have a rapid onset or they may develop slowly over time.
 
  • Metabolic problems and endocrine abnormalities
Thyroid problems can lead to apathy, depression, or dementia. Hypoglycemia, a condition in which there is not enough sugar in the bloodstream, can cause confusion or personality changes.
 
  • Nutritional deficiencies
Deficiencies of thiamine (vitamin B1) frequently result from chronic alcoholism and can seriously impair mental abilities, in particular memories of recent events. Severe deficiency of vitamin B3 can cause a neurological illness called pellagra that may include dementia. Deficiencies of vitamin B12 also have been linked to dementia in some cases. Dehydration can also cause mental impairment that can resemble dementia.
 
  • Poisoning
Exposure to lead, other heavy metals, or other poisonous substances can lead to symptoms of dementia. These symptoms may or may not resolve after treatment, depending on how badly the brain is damaged. People who have abused substances such as alcohol and recreational drugs sometimes display signs of dementia even after the substance abuse has ended. This condition is known as substance-induced persisting dementia.
 
  • Heart and lung problems
The brain requires a high level of oxygen in order to carry out its normal functions. Therefore, problems such as chronic lung disease or heart problems that prevent the brain from receiving adequate oxygen, can starve brain cells and lead to the symptoms of dementia.

 

 






 

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