Dementia is a general term referring to an impaired functioning of the brain, manifesting in symptoms such as forgetfulness, memory impairment, altered personal perception, which impact daily life. This condition predominantly occurs in individuals aged 65 and older and tends to progress over time.
Various causes contributing to dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease: The most common cause, characterized by the abnormal accumulation of certain proteins in the brain.
- Cerebrovascular disease: The second most common cause caused by the constriction or blockade of blood vessels, leading to insufficient blood and oxygen supply to parts of the brain.
- Other brain-related diseases: Examples include Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and brain infections.
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12 deficiency.
There are also other conditions that can mimic the symptoms of dementia but are not actually associated with progressive cognitive deterioration, such as depressive and anxiety disorders. When depression or anxiety is appropriately treataed, the memory tends to improve.
Diagnosing dementia involves reviewing a patient’s medical history, conducting physical examinations, cognitive assessments, blood tests, and brain scans to assess the cause and stage of the disease.
If reversible causes, such as nutritional deficiencies, are identified, the treatment will aim to correct the causes. However, in cases like Alzheimer’s disease, where there is no current cure, treatment aims to slow down cognitive decline through medication, risk reduction, and brain-stimulating activities.
Strategies for preventing or slowing down cognitive decline include:
- Consuming a balanced and nutritious diet.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Engaging in regular exercise.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Quitting smoking.
- Managing underlying health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
- Taking care of mental health.
- Participating in social activities and hobbies.
It’s important to monitor signs of cognitive decline, especially in individuals aged 65 and older, as early detection and prompt treatment offer better chances of slowing down cognitive decline.
Nacharin Phiphopthatsanee, MD MRCPsych
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