How dementia affects the brain?

Can dementia destroy the person’s intelligence? How to prevent early signs of dementia in your family? What are the symptoms of it? Everything you wanted to know about dementia is here!

Dementia symptoms

Dementia defines an acquired form during which patients have the loss of learned skills and knowledge acquired earlier (that can occur in varying degrees of intensity of symptoms), while at the same time there is a steady decline in their cognitive activity. Dementia symptoms which, in other words, appear in the form of the disintegration of mental functions, is most commonly diagnosed in old age, but there is a possibility of its development, and at a young age.

Dementia is caused by brain damage, against the background of what the disintegration of mental functions appears almost immediately, which generally helps to distinguish this disease from mental retardation, congenital or acquired dementia. Mental retardation implies a stop of development of the individual, because of brain damage as a result of certain pathologies, but the predominant way manifested in the form of destruction of the mind, which corresponds to its name.

types of dementia

This mental retardation differs from the dementia that man has intelligence, adult physically, has normal range of views, appropriate to his age. In addition, mental retardation is not a progressive process, and is the result of an ill person suffering the disease. Dementia has motor development disorders, speech and emotional problems.

Depending on the localization of brain lesions there are such types of dementia:

brain lesions

  • cortical dementia – it mostly affects the cerebral cortex (which is happening against the background conditions such as lobar (frontotemporal) degeneration, alcoholic encephalopathy, Alzheimer's disease);
  • subcortical dementia - in this case advantageously subcortical structures are subjected to suffer (multi-infarct dementia with white matter lesions, progressive supranuclear palsy, Parkinson's disease);
  • cortical-subcortical dementia (vascular dementia, cortical-basal degeneration form);
  • multifocal dementia - forming a plurality of focal lesions.

In the classification of the disease doctors also include dementia syndromes, determining the appropriate version of its flow. In particular, it can be lacunarity dementia, implying the predominant memory loss, which manifests itself in the form of progressive forms of amnesia and fixation.

The main signs of dementia:

main signs of dementia

READ ALSO: Are mental disorders hereditary?

  • Speech violation
  • Emotional instability
  • Memory impairment
  • Violation of thinking
  • Mental retardation

hand in hand

  • Disorientation
  • Impaired concentration
  • Changing behavior
  • Frustration of perception
  • Loss of skills
  • Changing personality

So now you know the dementia definition and symptoms of dementia, but there are also some facts you should certainly know.

Fact number 1. What long life can bring

What long life can bring

Dementia is a symptom that accompanies a number of diseases of the nervous system: Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, etc. All of them most often hit those who have lived a long life. For example, one in three Americans dies of old age with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.

Intelligent prevention is able to maintain the health of older people, but because of the increase in average life expectancy, the number of people suffering from the collapse of the mental functions will continue to grow. As in 2006, there were about 24 million people with impaired brain function. The authors of a study, which was published in the Lancet, estimated that by 2040 this number will reach 81 million.

Such numbers make the prevalence of dementia not only a medical problem, but also an economic one. Since 2005 to 2009, the total cost of dementia has increased by 34% and amounted about 422 million dollars. That amount included the money spent on treatment, diagnostic measures and care.

Fact number 2. Early signs of dementia

Early signs of dementia

There are different dementia stages. Despite the fact that the concept of dementia is strongly associated with older people, cognitive decline can affect younger people too (before 65, and sometimes before 40 years). According to statistics, in the UK in 2003, 100 thousand people between the ages of 30 to 64 years lived with dementia.

In most cases, early dementia is caused by degenerative diseases of the nervous system (most often Alzheimer's disease). Dementia at a relatively young age is associated with gene mutations. However, the loss of mental function can occur after traumatic brain injury as a result of prolonged alcohol intoxication.

Early symptoms of dementia

Diagnosing of early dementia tends to be difficult. A lot of the symptoms (forgetfulness, confusion, inability to concentrate, which often appear with dementia) are explained by fatigue, chronic stress, which is why it is important not to let the deterioration of cognitive abilities come to your life and seek medical advice.

Fact number 3. About dementia and exercises

dementia and exercises

Obesity and dementia are two related concepts, we know it well. But, as it turned out recently, even small overweight (when the body mass index - 25, or a little more) is also a risk factor. It was established by the Swedish scientists, watching the twins over 65 years old. These results correlate well with the conclusion of the Institute of Cooper (USA). They analyzed the physical form of 19 thousand people, and then watched them for a quarter of a century. It turned out that all those who had a low level of physical preparation at the time of the collection of primary data, over the years got developed dementia.

However, the only exercising cannot help reduce the risk of dementia, but it can slow it: physical exercise improves the cognitive abilities of people with dementia and allows them keeping the skills needed in everyday life.

brain work

Nutrition also helps in the prevention of dementia. According to research by Swedish scientists, the more fruits and vegetables are involved in the diet of young people, the less the chances of developing dementia in the future.

Smoking, on the contrary, increases the risk of dementia (two packs a day increases the risk twice), and the abuse of drinking can provoke the appearance of early dementia.

Fact number 4. With the right mood

right mood

Elder people, who are suffering from loneliness, often suffer from manifestations of dementia. It is a mood rather than on objective factors. However, lonely people, who are in a good mood, suffer from cognitive impairment not so often. At the same time, those who feel deprived, get developing dementia in half times more likely.

Mental discomfort brings little good at any age, if a young person diagnosed with depression, his chances of contracting vascular dementia later in life increased threefold. A number of stressful situations (problems at work, separations, divorces) increases the risk of dementia in the years of declining in the mature years, especially in women. According to scientists, the accumulated stress affects long-term health - harm the cardiovascular, nervous and endocrine systems, and therefore can provoke the emergence of dementia.

Fact number 5. On the mental work

mental work influences dementia

The question of whether an active capable of mental work influences dementia, studied for a long time. A study based on 20 years of observation of 300 people found that those, who are most actively engaged in mental activity throughout life, get 32% slower cognitive decline. Those, who do not read, write, receive and process enough information, get developing dementia more rapidly. Elderly people working with computer facilities, less likely to suffer from dementia - the use of computers has a positive effect on the brain, it causes to learn something new, to make decisions, and cooperate with the world.

work influences dementia

It is also known that the mental work may not only slow down the development of dementia, but also improve the condition of those, who already faced it. Learning therapy, in which you must solve arithmetic problems and retell stories, trains patients’ memory and improves the quality of life.

At the same time, the Brain journal published not such encouraging data. According to an article, in which the analysis of several scientific works appeared, even permanent and continuing education cannot protect against neurodegenerative diseases in later life.

Fact number 6. Estrogen and anemia

Estrogen and anemia

Depressed mood and obesity and lack of mental activity contribute to the emergence of dementia, however, in addition to these risk factors, there are some others. Too high or too understated estrogen levels in blood during women’s postmenopausal period increases the risk of cognitive impairment. The combination of diabetes and high levels of estrogen makes the situation even worse. The cause of this connection is still not revealed. Maybe it's the influence of estrogen on blood vessels and glucose.

Also, there is a link between anemia and dementia. People, who have a lack of hemoglobin in the blood in the elderly, twice as likely to face cognitive impairment. Probably, the fact that the organs and tissues of people with anemia receive less oxygen, affects the brain.

Fact number 7. About tests for dementia

tests for dementia

The earlier cognitive impairment will be noticed, the more likely to slow down the development of dementia. Therefore, scientists are actively working on the development of effective methods for detecting the disease.

Staff at the Technological University of Georgia (USA) created a tool for determining the first signs of dementia at the home. For real! ClockMe system consists of two applications. One of the programs is a test (a series of tasks that must be performed using the tablet and stylus). The second is the analyzer of the test results. The test is run on the device of the patient, the analyzer –on a doctor’s computer. Doctor application retrieves data from the patient's application remotely, parses them according to predetermined algorithms, and the doctor evaluates the final result and makes the diagnosis.

make the diagnosis

A similar test was also presented by neuroscientists from the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio University (USA). However, it does not require the presence of gadgets: all that is needed - a pen and piece of paper. The so-called SAGE (Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination) is a list of questions that must be answered. SAGE developers have already tested the product on 1047 people older than 50 years and we are confident that it allows you to check the orientation of the time, verbal, intellectual and visual-spatial abilities, memory capabilities. Soon, the test should appear in other countries world-wide.

elderly demensia

Identifying early signs of dementia may be different. The ability of people to recognize the celebrities is directly related to the state of the brain. The participants of the study of American scientists have proposed to determine which of the world-famous people depicted in the photos. Those who had even faintly expressed disturbances of cognitive activity, failed to pass the test successfully. Based on this, the authors of the study suggests that a simple test can be used to detect early dementia in people from 40 to 65 years old.

Tests for the detection of cardiovascular disease can also be used for diagnosis. Blood pressure values, cholesterol, the presence of diabetes and bad habits can predict with some accuracy whether a person will develop dementia in old age. If there is a serious risk of heart attack or stroke - the risk of dementia is high too.

Fact number 8. About music and memories

music and memories

Most types of dementia cannot be cured, but some measures can slow the decline in mental abilities. In addition to receiving drugs that affect the brain and regulation of biochemical processes, scientists and physicians are considering alternative ways to treat the patients.

elderly disease

One option for the provision of psychological support to patients is called reminiscentia therapy. It is believed that therapy, in which older people talk about the past, retrace the events that are rethinking their supports of mental activity, improves mood and influences behavior. Aromatherapy (in particular with the use of oil of lemon balm) is also suitable for improving the psychological state of people, removal of excessive excitation, although this is not a hundred percent method yet. Occupational therapy and music therapy also can improve the condition and behavior of people suffering from dementia.

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