Dementia: Lifestyle Changes and Risk Reduction Strategies

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Dementia generally is a condition where the person gradually loses his/her ability to think, remember, and reason. Some types of Dementia also trigger uncontrolled emotions and completely change the person’s personality. It worsens over time until it reaches a point when it affects one’s quality of living. At this time, the person with Dementia can no longer do tasks and activities without the guidance of a caretaker or family.

People over the age of 65 commonly get Dementia. In 2014, an estimated 5.0 million people at the age of 65 had Dementia. Another survey stated that ⅓ of the population over the age of 85 suffer from different types of Dementia.

How is Dementia Different From Alzheimer’s Disease?

Some people confuse Dementia with being the same as Alzheimer’s, but that is not the case. Dementia is more of a general term for conditions related to brain deterioration, while Alzheimer’s is a more specific term and falls under the types of Dementia. Other than Alzheimer’s Disease, there are other types of Dementia that I will be discussing in the latter part.

Is Having Dementia Normal?

Having Dementia is certainly not normal. People without Dementia get to live a normal independent life, though they might still experience signs of old age such as weakened muscles and unalarming memory changes like occasionally forgetting the name of an acquaintance or forgetting where you placed your stuff.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of Dementia may affect one's memory, communication, attention, and reasoning. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Getting lost in a place you are familiar with.
  • Forgetting your close friend or family member completely.
  • Nearly impossible to complete simple tasks alone.
  • Difficulty communicating and expressing oneself.
  • Difficulty making simple decisions.
  • Using weird words in referring to familiar objects.
  • Forgetting memories.

Symptoms of Dementia may vary from person to person, meaning some people may not experience all the symptoms listed below. It goes the same with the severity of symptoms one might experience.


There’s still no clear explanation as to the cause of Dementia. Some experts say that Dementia is caused by occurring changes in the brain, while others say that it may be caused by genetic mutations in the brain. Despite these theories, the underlying cause of Dementia is still unknown.

Risk Factors

Below are some of the factors that increase your risk of Dementia.

  • Age: This is the most evident risk factor for Dementia. As you reach your 60’s the more likely you are to get Dementia.
  • Genetics: If your family has a history of Dementia, it means you most likely will get it too.
  • Poor Heart Health: Studies found that people who have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are more susceptible to Dementia especially if conditions are left untreated.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: If you have a history of brain injury, you are most likely at risk of getting Dementia especially if the injury is severe and recurring.
  • Race Or Ethnicity: Sometimes your risk of Dementia also depends on what race or ethnicity you belong to. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), African Americans and Hispanics have a more likely chance of getting Dementia when they reach their 60s.
Types of Dementia

Here is the list of the most common types of Dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease

This is the most common type of Dementia affecting 60 - 80 percent of people with Dementia. The primary sign of Alzheimer’s includes forgetting conversations that happened only minutes or a few hours ago. As the disease worsens, remembering distant memories becomes more difficult as well. Mild to severe symptoms also include personality changes and difficulty performing basic tasks such as walking or talking.

Lewy Body Dementia

The most evident sign of Lewy Body Dementia is memory loss accompanied by problems in movement and balance. This means that people with this type of Dementia may experience constant trembling and stiffness. Other signs include daytime sleepiness, staring spells, confusion, trouble sleeping, and hallucinations.

Fronto-Temporal Dementia

People with Frontotemporal Dementia tend to experience personality and behavioral changes. This may also lead to inappropriate actions such as embarrassing oneself, neglecting responsibilities, and talking offensive comments impulsively. People with this type of Dementia may also experience difficulty in speaking and comprehending.

Vascular Dementia

This type of Dementia is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the brain affecting blood flow. Some experts say that Vascular Dementia can be linked to stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. Over time, the symptoms of this Dementia will get worse as the patient gets more strokes.

Mixed Dementia

This form of Dementia means that the patient has more than one type of Dementia present in his/her brain. Say, for example, a patient may experience symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease and at the same time have Vascular Dementia due to the damaged vessels in the brain.

Mixed Dementia is more prevalent in people in their 80s. However, this is more difficult to determine as symptoms of one type of Dementia may overlap with the other type of Dementia.

How Dementia is Diagnosed

Before your doctor could diagnose you with Dementia, you will first undergo various cognitive and physical tests. This is to see if the symptoms you are experiencing are caused by other underlying medical conditions. These tests may include:

Cognitive Tests / Neurological Tests

These forms of tests are used to assess your thinking, comprehension, problem-solving skills, language skills, mathematical skills, as well as physical balance, reflexes, and senses.

Brains Scan

Brain scans will help doctors check your brain for any existing tumors, and strokes that cause the symptoms of Dementia. There are different kinds of brain scans such as:

  • CT scan - Utilizes X-rays to produce an image of our brain.
  • MRI scan - Utilizes magnetic fields to produce a detailed image of our brain.
  • PET scan - Utilizes radiation to monitor brain activity.

Psychiatric Evaluation

This will determine existing psychiatric conditions that contribute to the symptoms you are experiencing.

Blood Tests

These are performed to determine the levels of a certain component called beta-amyloid in your blood. Abnormal accumulation of this component is one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Generic Test

These form of tests will determine if your family have a history of Dementia. In this way, you will be able to know if you have a higher risk of getting the illness.

Prevention Tips

Though treatment of Dementia is still under investigation, there are still ways you can do to reduce the risk of getting Dementia.

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet.
  2. Get regular exercise.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Limit alcohol intake.
  5. Quit smoking.
  6. Monitor and maintain healthy blood pressure.

Final Thoughts

Dementia is one of the most undesired illnesses among senior citizens, and that forgetting one’s memories is very unpleasant. Though the treatment for Dementia is still underway, you can practice prevention tips to reduce your risk of Dementia. I hope this article helped you have a deeper understanding of Dementia.

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