Dementia is a chronic mental disorder that affects one’s cognitive and social abilities. It is a persistent disorder that generally affects old people and their ability to lead a normal life.
Dementia itself is not a specific disease but a syndrome that can be caused by several diseases. It is a persistent syndrome that deteriorates one’s cognitive abilities.
It affects one’s ability to think, comprehend, learn new things, memorise and calculate, etc. It also deteriorates one’s language and judgemental functions.
Although it commonly affects old age people, it doesn’t mean that it is how the usual biological ageing should be.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Dementia ranks 7th in causing death worldwide, among other diseases. In addition, since it affects older people, it increases their dependency, thus reducing their role in the social sphere.
What are the symptoms of Dementia?
Dementia affects different persons differently. Its symptoms highly vary based on one’s previous cognitive abilities, health conditions and lifestyle. Based on the severity of the symptoms, Dementia can be classified into three stages.
Dementia is not a sudden disorder that affects elderly people. Its onset is rather gradual. In its initial stages, the common symptoms include:
- Mind forgetfulness
- Losing track of familiar routes and directions
- Forgetting familiar places
Usually, caretakers and family members may overlook the initial symptoms as they will appear only gradually.
As the disorder progress through later stages, the symptoms will become more prominent. Some of them are:
- Forgetting people’s names and recent events
- Being in a state of confusion
- Difficulty in communication
- Unable to take care of themselves
- Quickly forgetting what other people say while conversing
- May even wander without any reason
In this advanced stage, people experience severe symptoms of Dementia. They are:
- Increased complexity in motor functions
- Not able to handle even fewer complex tasks
- Difficulty in remembering names and numbers
- Forgetting faces, including close family members
- May undergo anxiety and depression
- Experience behavioural changes
- May even be aggressive often
- Sometimes even hallucinations
What causes Dementia?
Dementia is a disorder that affects brain cells and their connections. Based on the affected area of the brain, the level of the disorder varies. But still, researchers are trying to identify the exact underlying causes of Dementia.
Some studies also show that, in some cases, Dementia can also be caused by genetic mutations, although the rate of incidence is much less.
What are the different forms of Dementia?
As Dementia is not a single disease, it is a psychological syndrome that can be caused by various factors. Based on the causes, Dementia can be of several types. Some are as follows:
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the typical causes of dementia among older people.
Worldwide, it may contribute to around 60 – 70% of Dementia syndromes.
Experts are still studying all the possible causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies show that a little proportion of the disorder is caused by a genetic transfer of mutated genes from parents to the child.
However, in most cases, this disease is caused by extraordinary buildups of proteins called amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain.
This type of Dementia occurs if the blood vessels, which are responsible for the transport of blood and oxygen to the brain damage.
This is a cause for concern as it can affect the white matter of the brain by interrupting fibres. It may also lead to stroke. Some other common symptoms include loss of focus, issues with problem-solving skills, etc.
The frontal and temporal lobes are responsible for one’s language skills, personality and behaviour. When the nerve cell connections of the frontal and temporal lobes are getting affected, it leads to Frontotemporal Dementia.
These connections are getting damaged due to the formation of abnormal amounts of proteins tau and TDP-43.
This type of Dementia even occurs in people below the age of 60 years.
Lewy body Dementia
When there is an unusual amount of the settlement of protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain, it leads to Lewy body Dementia. These protein settlements are called Lewy bodies.
The proteins form abnormal clumps in the brain, thus affecting its normal functioning. Some common symptoms include unusually slow movements, rigidity (parkinsonism), etc. In some severe cases, it may also lead to visual hallucinations.
Some autopsy reports by doctors that have been performed on people aged above 80 years showed the occurrence of mixed dementia among people. It is the case when old age people are affected by more than one form of dementia.
Still, researchers are being involved in studies to determine the exact causes and symptoms of such disorders.
How to prevent this disorder?
Although there is no conclusive treatment available to treat dementia, it can be prevented by doing simple changes in your lifestyle. Some ways to prevent this are:
- Always keeping the mind active by reading, memorising, solving puzzles, etc.
- Quit smoking and avoid regular consumption of alcohol.
- Intake enough vitamins, especially vitamin D.
- Doing regular workouts, including cardiovascular training.
- Practice a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Have a sound and quality sleep by avoiding certain practices that may affect your sleep.
A word of concern
India is on the verge of a demographic shift, where the percentage of young people in our population increases. This huge number of young people will get older along the line.
So, in the near future, by around 2050, we will be experiencing a bulk proportion of elderly. With an increase in elderly people, their health risks will increase.
Hence practicing and providing a healthy lifestyle will help prevent the occurrence of dementia and decrease the over-dependence of elderly people.
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