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What Is Dementia?

DementiaDementia literally means “deprived of mind”.

Those who are young don't think much about dementia, but those who are in midlife often worry about losing their mental sharpness as they age.

Perhaps you've seen loved ones suffer from some form of dementia and wonder if you too may develop dementia sooner or later.

What is dementia?

Is it a disease or is it something you just "get" as you age?

There are many conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia.

Dementia is not something that you just "get" as you age. In fact, it has been incorrectly assumed as a normal part of aging.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, dementia itself is not a disease. Rather, it is a broad term describing symptoms of a general decline in one’s mental capabilities severe enough to interfere with daily life.

At least 2 of the following mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia:

  • Memory
  • Communication and language
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

Dementia is caused by physical changes (damage) to the brain that interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other.

The following list contains possible causes for dementia. For a full description of each of these, visit the article from the Alzheimer’s Association website titled Types of Dementia.

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
  • Mixed dementia
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Huntington's disease
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Alzheimer’s disease is considered the most common form of dementia (60-80%) with vascular dementia (from a stroke) being the second.

Research indicates that Alzheimer’s disease is a result of plaques and tangles that have formed in the brain.

Alzheimer’s symptoms include short-term memory loss, confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, language breakdown, and eventually long-term memory loss.

Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Generally, Alzheimer’s is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age.

The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s was reported to be 35 million-plus worldwide as of Sept. 2009. This number is expected to reach approximately 107 million people by the year 2050.

If you or someone you know is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don't ignore them. See a doctor soon to determine the cause.

The good news is that recent studies have shown that there are actions that we can take today to delay the onset and even cut our risk of contracting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 60%!

To learn more about the actions that we can take to reduce the risks of developing dementia, subscribe to our Brain Health Tips newsletter.

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6 thoughts on “What Is Dementia?”

  1. Great to know that there are preventative measures that can be taken regarding Alzheimer's disease. I admit that I haven't thought much about dementia or Alzheimer's disease, thanks for the info!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Michael. I am sorry to hear about your step dad’s alzheimer’s. One of the reasons I blog about brain health and fitness is in part due to my own experience with loved ones. I blog about steps we can all take to lower the risks of developing dementia and alzheimer’s ourselves – as well as help those who already have some form of it. 

  2. I knew of someone who had Demetia, she was my cousin's grandma. My mom took care of her and when i visit she would always ask me the same question and wouldn't even recognized me. It was sad she passed away at the begining of the year.

  3. Thank you for this summary of the symptoms of dementia as well as the tools to reduce our mental decline. Just as physical exercise can prevent the decline of our bodies, mental exercises and nutrition can prevent the decline of our mind's faculties.

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