Causes and prevention of dementia

Firstly we have to ask what is Dementia and how is it different from Alzheimer’s disease?

Dementia is not a disease in itself but rather a term that describes a wide range of symptoms that are the result of damage to nerve cells of the brain. Dementia can affect people differently but involves a decline in memory or other cognitive skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks. There are over 100 different types of dementia but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type accounting for over 60% of all cases and affecting more than half a million people in the UK.

Dementias can be classified in a variety of ways and are often grouped by what they have in common, such as what part of the brain is affected, or whether they worsen over time (progressive dementias).

Some dementias, such as those caused by a reaction to medications or an infection, are reversible with treatment. Types of dementias that are not reversible and worsen over time include:

Alzheimer’s disease 

The exact cause is unknown but it is the most common form of dementia in older people although some younger people may have early-onset forms of the disease often as the result of a defective gene. Genetic factors can contribute to the likelihood that people will develop Alzheimer’s.

Vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia, occurs as a result of brain damage due to reduced or blocked blood flow in blood vessels leading to the brain. These blood vessel problems may be caused by stroke, infection of a heart valve or other vascular (blood vessel) conditions.

Lewy body dementia.

Dementia with Lewy bodies accounts for approximately 10% of dementia making it the 3rd most common type. Symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s and can include memory loss, hallucinations and Parkinson’s–type movement problems. Uniquely one symptom may be fluctuations between confusion and lucidity.

Frontotemporal dementia.

As with most dementia; the cause isn’t known but it is sometimes related to generic mutations. Previously known as Pick’s disease it tends to affect slightly younger people between the ages of 50 and 70. The degeneration of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain can affect a person’s personality. This can manifest itself in inappropriate behaviour, problems with language, difficulties with thinking, concentration and movement.

So is there any way to help prevent dementia? – While there is nothing definite at present that prevents all the different types of dementia we can reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life by following a healthy life style.  To prevent dementia and other serious health conditions it is recommended that you:

  • Watch your weight - being overweight can increase your blood pressure which in turn increases your risk of getting some kinds of dementia. BMI healthy weight calculator.
  • Exercise regularly – generally speaking two and a half hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week helps keep your heart and blood circulatory system working efficiently, lowers cholesterol,  and keeps blood pressure at a healthy level
  • Cut down on your alcohol intake – follow the recommended limits for alcohol consumption three to four units of alcohol a day for men, and two to three units a day for women.
  • If you smoke – STOP. Smoking clogs up your arteries, raises blood pressure and increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, dementia and cancer. Visit the NHS Smokefree website.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Consume no more than 6 grams of salt a day and limit the amount of food that is high in saturated fat. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain food which is high in fibre.
  • Maintain your blood pressure at a healthy level

You will feel better too!

For further information contact the Alzheimer’s society:-

At Bluebird Care, we specialise in supporting people living with Dementia and can support individuals to live well at home with their diagnosis. If you're looking for dementia care in Leeds, contact us to find out more about how we can support individuals to continue to live independently at home.

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