- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
What Is the Cause of Dementia?
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a broad term that is used to describe a variety of different cognitive disorders, and causes problems with memory, speech, recognition of objects and surroundings, and decision making ability. Dementia is more prevalent in older adults,but can occur as early as 40 years of age.
Alzheimer's Disease is a form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's Disease, and it is now the 6th leading cause of death in the USA. 1 out of every 3 Americans over age 65 dies with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease or other dementia.
Dementia has many different causes. Some can be reversed and others cannot. Knowing the causes of dementia can help you reduce your risk of developing the disease.
Which Causes of Dementia Are Irreversible?
Dementia may be caused by certain diseases, but it may also occur spontaneously with no underlying cause. When dementia occurs with no underlying cause it usually does so in the form of Alzheimer's Disease, Lewy Body Dementia, or as Vascular Dementia. Alzheimer's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia are caused by abnormal clumps of protein in the brain called plaque. Vascular Dementia is caused by problems with the flow of blood in arteries in the brain. It can occur after a stroke, heart attack, or infection of a heart valve.
Diseases that may cause dementia are:
- Hungtington's Disease;
- HIV Associated Dementia;
- Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease; and
- Parkinson's Disease.
Which Causes of Dementia Are Reversible or Treatable?
Some causes of dementia may be time-limited and result from various treatable medical conditions. Thus, these causes of dementia are considered reversible. Some of the reversible causes of Dementia include:
- Bladder Infection: Urinary Tract Infections (UTI's) can cause symptoms of dementia in the elderly. This is known as urinary psychosis and can be treated and reversed with antibiotics. While this generally occurs with bladder infections, any infection may cause symptoms of dementia.
- Medication Interactions: When multiple medications are taken at the same time to manage various illness and problems, there is always the risk of one medication interacting with another. This can mean that one drug makes another drug more or less powerful, or that one drug completely counteracts another. Over the counter (OTC) medications can do this just as well as prescription medications. Medication interactions can also cause drug toxicity and increased side effects and confusion.
- Medication Toxicity: When medications and their by products are not metabolized by the liver and excreted by the kidneys, medications can build up in the body and become toxic. Toxicity can result in mental confusion and symptoms of dementia.
- Depression: Depression can result in forgetfulness, confusion, lack of motivation, anxiety and agitation. These symptoms may be interpreted as dementia. Antidepressant medications can be helpful in stabilizing mood and improving some basic function in those with depression.
- Dehydration: When there is not enough fluid in the body, dehydration results. When we are dehydrated, our electrolyte balances change from normal to much higher in concentration. This can result in mental confusion, heart palpitations and a myriad of other symptoms.
- Nutrition: Lack of B vitamins like Thiamine and Folic Acid can cause symptoms of dementia.
- Hearing and Vision Problems: Loss of either of these senses can cause changes in behavior that may be interpreted as dementia.
- Tumors: Brain tumors can cause mental confusion, mood changes and personality changes. These symptoms mimic dementia.
- Lack of Oxygen to the Brain (Anoxia): Anoxia can be caused by any situation that would impede oxygen reaching the brain. Some conditions that can lead to anoxia are heart attack, carbon monoxide poisoning and severe asthma. Chronic heart and lung problems can also result in anoxia and symptoms of dementia.
How to Prevent Dementia
There is no single known method of preventing dementia. Adopting an overall healthy lifestyle seems to be key to prevention. Some actions you can take are:
- Maintain a healthy diet;
- Remain physically, socially and mentally active;
- Get adequate sleep;
- Exercise regularly;
- Lower your cholesterol;
- Control your blood sugars;
- Quit smoking;
- Limit alcohol consumption;
- Lower your blood pressure.