Many people consider dementia an inevitable consequence of aging. Although it is one of the most common conditions that plague the elderly, it is actually something that researchers are coming to understand. Consequently, if you know how to recognize the signs of dementia, there are steps you can take to increase the chance of forestalling it.
Additionally, if dementia runs in either side of your family, there are a variety of lifestyle choices you can make to help lessen its impact if you eventually experience it. Finally, researchers are discovering that dementia is something you must combat early on. If you procrastinate, you might find yourself engaged in an uphill battle against something that will slowly take over your health.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general description used to describe the overall decline in cerebral functioning. Most people are aware that this decline impacts such things as memory, but in the later stages, for instance, it also impacts people’s ability to recognize common items or known friends. It creates gaps in one’s thinking, causing many sufferers to suddenly become unaware of how they got into a specific place or what they were doing or planning to do. In terms of brain function, it impacts problem solving, so sufferers might become more confused attempting tasks they would otherwise find easy to understand.
As a general decline in behavior and health, dementia has many specific causes. For instance, Alzheimer’s is one specific disease that causes the decline in brain function known as dementia. Alzheimer’s impacts a variety of bodily and mental functions that impact breathing, thinking, memory, and vascular health. As the disease progresses, the decline in mental functioning known as dementia worsens. Other specific diseases or injuries that cause dementia include the following.
- Parkinson’s disease
- Traumatic injury or sports impacts
- Arterial plaque
Symptoms of Dementia by Stage
Most people talk about dementia as if it is simply a decline in mental behavior or ability. However, much like cancer, it is best described according to each stage’s severity.
1. Symptom free
Stage one does not involve any actual symptoms. Instead, it involves undetected physical changes that will eventually become evident via visible behavior. Consequently, stage one is the best stage to admit your risks of getting dementia. Once you acknowledge you might get it, you can then take the necessary steps to mitigate the consequences.
For instance, people with family members known to have suffered from dementia are at a greater risk of developing it. This is because some causes of specific diseases are genetic. Other causes are behavioral. HIV, for instance, is often considered a lifestyle disease, so the wrong choices can lead to health issues that result in dementia.
2. Periodic impairment
Stage two represents behavioral glitches, so to speak, that signal dementia. However, these memory hiccups or brief moments of confusion are often explained away or ignored. If you experience any brief moments of cerebral dysfunction, you should at this time further educate yourself about the later symptoms of dementia and take steps to forestall its advance.
3. Mild decline
Stage three represents someone who experiences subtle but persistent mental states of confusion or memory failures. In stage three, the sufferer knows something is wrong but may feel embarrassed about the decline and not seek assistance. Additionally, the decline might still be perceived as insignificant and explained away as a result of being overworked or stressed.
4. Early-stage dementia
People suffering from stage-four dementia show clear signs that something is wrong. It is at this stage that medical intervention is critical as behavioral solutions are less likely to offer significant improvements.
5. Moderate decline
In stage five, successfully completing daily behaviors becomes increasingly difficult. Bathing, dressing, or physical care might be stressful or difficult enough to require in-home care.
In stage six, sufferers maintain only limited memory of their life experiences, making any real interaction with loved ones extremely unlikely. Personality changes might include paranoia or violent and fearful agitation. This stage can last for up to 30 months.
Sufferers in the final stage often cannot speak. Psycho-motor functions are diminished. The typical duration of this final stage is 2.5 years.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia as it is a general description of mental decline. To cure dementia, the various causes that lead to such decline would have to first be cured. Although there are various advances being made to combat such diseases as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, no total cure for these diseases yet exists. Additionally, some injury-related causes, such as those suffered in car crashes, are extremely difficult to anticipate.
However, researchers are discovering that diet can positively impact dementia and forestall its progression. For instance, anti-inflammatory diets help reduce arterial plaque in the body and brain. Additionally, healthy fats are widely thought to help maintain the brain’s physical health and mental functions. Healthy fats can be obtained by eating the following foods
- Coconut oil
Other behaviors that help lessen the chance of getting dementia or reducing its effects
include exercise as the weight helps burn off unhealthy fats.
Sometimes, it is difficult tracking down all the individual foods that can help alleviate the symptoms of any disease. Consequently, it is effective to follow healthy diets known to include a subset of healthy foods. For instance, the Mediterranean diet as well as the DASH diet both incorporate anti-inflammatory foods that have a positive impact on dementia. Additionally, these diets help you maintain low blood pressure, which also helps reduce the possibility of dementia.
Note: for people worried about dementia, following a proper diet and engaging in routine exercise are two of the best strategies to prevent or forestall it. In fact, they are the best strategies for people in the early stages of dementia.
Of course, medications help. The best medications include the following.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Various therapies help maintain the brain’s pathways. These therapies include behavioral therapy, such as hobbies or word puzzles. However, other therapies include music therapy and dance therapy.
Other techniques that have a positive impact on people already exhibiting signs of dementia include cognitive stimulation. Cognitive stimulation includes the aforementioned reliance on word puzzles to stimulate the brain, but it also encourages sufferers to talk about their daily routines, projects, and goals. In doing so, this type of stimulation helps build memory pathways that, in turn, help improve daily quality of life by reducing very specific declines in mental functioning.