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Dementia

What is Dementia?


Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory Loss is example. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia. 


About Dementia

Dementia is not a specific disease.  It's an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities.  Alzheimer's Disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.  Vascular Dementia, which occurs after stroke, is the second most common dementia type.  But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies. 


Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as "senility" or "senile dementia," which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging. 


Causes

Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells.  The damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other.  When the brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected.

The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions(for example, memory, judgement, and movement).  When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normally. 

Different types of dementia are associated with particular types of brain cell damage in particular regions of the brain.  For example, in Alzheimer's Disease, high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other.  The brain region called the hippocampus is the center of learning and memory in the brain, and the brain cells in this region are often the first to be damaged.  That's why memory loss is often one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's.  


While most changes in the brain that cause dementia are permanent and worsen over time, thinking and memory problems caused by the conditions may improve when the condition is treated or addressed:

  • Depression
  • Medication side effects
  • Excess use of alcohol
  • Thyroid problems
  • vitamin deficiencies

Dementia help and support are available

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you are not alone.  The Alzheimer's Association is one of the most trusted resources for information, education, referral and support. You can call their 24/7 Helpline 800-272-3900 or online www.alz.org Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregiver Center.  Information obtained from www.alz.org