This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Many people fear developing dementia as they age, and for a good reason. Dementia causes significant losses in cognitive functioning and memory, meaning that they lose all their knowledge, skills, memories, and sense of self. This is a terrifying condition to experience, and unfortunately, there is little one can do once dementia begins to set in.
Unfortunately, dementia is not curable at this time. However, by understanding some common causes of dementia as well as the risk factors, you may be able to prevent developing it yourself. Read on to learn more about what causes dementia, as well as some tips on how to potentially avoid developing it yourself.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a condition that describes loss in cognitive functioning and mental abilities. A person with dementia will increasingly lose their memory or struggle with basic, everyday tasks. It is a progressive condition, with early symptoms consisting of mild memory problems. However, eventually, the affected person will be unable to care for themselves and won’t be safe if left alone.
Because the term “dementia” is often used interchangeably with “Alzheimer’s,” many people believe dementia is a disease. However, it is crucial to understand that dementia itself is not a disease. Instead, it is a symptom of many neurodegenerative disorders or is a consequence of other conditions.
Common Causes of Dementia
Though most people equate dementia with Alzheimer’s, the truth is that there are many causes of dementia. Most causes are neurodegenerative disorders, but other diseases or conditions can also cause dementia. Below are the most common causes of dementia.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: This is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. It is a neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink and the cells to die. About 55 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s, with about 10 million cases added each year.
- Parkinson’s Disease: This is a neurologic disease that affects movement. It is progressive and may start with a subtle or unnoticeable tremor. However, dementia is also a common symptom that occurs in the late stages of the disease.
- Huntington’s Disease: This is a rare genetic disorder that breaks down nerve cells in the brain. It affects the entire brain, meaning that cognitive functioning, motion, and other functional abilities are significantly hindered. It is also a progressive disease, so affected individuals are unable to care for themselves near the end of life.
- Vascular Disorders: These are conditions that affect blood circulation in the brain. When these conditions arise, the brain does not get enough blood or oxygen to operate efficiently. These consist of many diseases or conditions, including brain injuries, meningitis, HIV, brain hemorrhages, or strokes.
Other Risk Factors For Dementia
In addition to the diseases mentioned above, there are many risk factors associated with dementia. It seems that certain conditions, lifestyle changes, and genetics may increase the chance of someone developing dementia. Some of these risk factors include:
- Substance use
- Low blood sugar
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Family history of dementia
- Down syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Heart disease
- Lack of exercise
- Sleep apnea
- Infections of the brain
Though these conditions do not guarantee that you will develop dementia, there is an increased likelihood that you may. Therefore, if you live with one of these conditions or are likely to develop them, you may want to try some of the prevention strategies listed below.
Tips To Prevent Dementia Or Slow Its Progression
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for dementia or many of the diseases that cause it. However, with some lifestyle changes, you may be able to prevent dementia or slow its progression. Some ways you may be able to do this include:
- Protect your head from injuries
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a balanced diet
- Cut out alcohol, smoking, and drugs
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Keep your blood sugar and blood pressure at healthy levels
Dementia is a scary yet incurable condition. What’s worse is that many of the diseases that cause dementia cannot be cured or reversed either. However, there are still some things you can do to prevent dementia. By avoiding the potential risk factors and creating a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to prevent or slow the progression of dementia.
You can find more resources about dementia by clicking on the link below: