Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging.
What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?
Because dementia is a general term, its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. People with dementia have problems with:
- Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving
- Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision
Signs that may point to dementia include:
- Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
- Forgetting old memories
- Not being able to complete tasks independently
What increases the risk for dementia?
The strongest known risk factor for dementia is increasing age, with most cases affecting those of 65 years and older
- Family history
Those who have parents or siblings with dementia are more likely to develop dementia themselves.
Older African Americans are twice more likely to have dementia than whites. Hispanics 1.5 times more likely to have dementia than whites.
- Poor heart health
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking increase the risk of dementia if not treated properly.
- Traumatic brain injury
Head injuries can increase the risk of dementia, especially if they are severe or occur repeatedly.
How is dementia treated?
Treatment of dementia depends on the underlying cause. Neurodegenerative dementias, like Alzheimer’s disease, have no cure, though there are medications that can help protect the brain or manage symptoms such as anxiety or behavior changes. Research to develop more treatment options is ongoing. Leading a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining social contacts, decreases chances of developing chronic diseases and may reduce number of people with dementia.