What causes Dementia? What causes Alzheimer’s?
Dementia refers to a disease in which the nerve cells in the brain are not able to connect to one another. All forms of dementia reflects a dysfunction in the cerebral cortex, or brain tissue. Some parts of the disease processes damage the cortex directly; others disrupt subcortical areas of the brain that normally regulate the function of the cortex itself. This results in a loss of memory and eventually other brain functions, like the brain’s ability to tell your kidneys to work or your body to breath, which leads to death. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for approximately 50%-75% of dementia cases
While some memory decline is considered a normal part of the aging process, dementia is much more severe, and includes a wide range of symptoms that are not normal. With dementia, eventually all parts of the brain are involved.
Symptoms of dementia include:
- Inability to make plans, organize thoughts or make decisions.
- Inability to recognize friends and family
- Loss of the ability to communicate — it starts out by forgetting words, then progresses to inability to form sentences, and then they are unable to speak at all.
- Reverse of the life process — where the adult will begin to act like a teenager again, and eventually like a baby where they will lose their ability to control body functions
- Eventually the brain neurons will not be able to connect to tell the rest of the body what to do — kidneys will not work, and eventually the brain will “forget” to tell the body to breathe.
There has not been found to be one specific thing that can cause dementia, but a number of, or a combination of things. Some factors that have been found include:
- Abnormalities in a protein in the brain called apolipoprotein E, which is genetic.
- Approximately 20% of dementia cases are caused by a stroke, or series of strokes. Blood clots or hemorrhages can form to can off the blood supply to the brain
- Blockages in the arteries and veins that restrict blood flow to the brain from .
- Diabetes and metabolic diseases, illness, infection, head injury, drugs and nutritional deficiencies
Dementia starts of with simple and insignificant memory lapses, at that point the person is still able to recall recent events. For example: A person with normal aging memory loss may forget to set out the recycling bin on Wednesday; a person with a mild form of impairment may forget the recycling bin and other usual chores on Wednesday; a person with full-blown dementia may not even know it is Wednesday, or even name the other days of the week.
Since memory loss and difficulty in communicating are part of the symptoms, people with dementia tend to withdraw from social activity and interaction with other people as their symptoms get worse. As it progresses, they get confused when there are too many people around — like at family gatherings, because they don’t recognize the people and the activity makes them agitated. They are aware there is a problem, but not able to understand what the problem is and feel awkward. Forgetting the names of family members and the loss of total ability to speak occurs toward the middle to the end of they disease, and they eventually forget how to do such basic functions There will come a time when their body will not able to perform routine functions as turning a door handle or swallowing food.
Dementia can not be reversed, nor stopped, but it can be slowed down through medication, change in diet, exercise, and doing brain games that stimulate the brain to make new connections. With dementia caused by heart and blood flow problems, drugs are used to control some symptoms and to treat risk factors like strokes, diabetes and high blood pressure.
I am very interested in all phases of memory and memory loss, including dementia, and follow closely any advances in research so I can bring them to you.
From the desk of Ron White
Discovery Fit & Health — What are the Common Causes of Dementia? http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/what-common-causes-of-dementia
EmedicineHealth — Dementia Causes, Symptoms: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/dementia_overview/article_em.htm