Dementia: Spot the signs

Is dementia a medical condition? Wait a minute… isn’t Alzheimer’s known as dementia too? Here’s where you sidestep the confusion and get to the truth about dementia.

You can’t remember where you put your car keys and it’s the third time this week. You often have something niggling at the back of your mind but you just can’t seem to grasp what it is.What’s going on? Is this a natural part of aging or is it something far more serious?

Getting to know dementia 

Dementia is actually not a medical condition. It is an umbrella term used to describe a long list of symptoms associated with declining memory or cognitive skills. According to WebMD, dementia refers to a loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory and social abilities, like reasoning. In fact, in more severe cases, dementia can affect a person’s daily life as well. It can also affect a person’s mood, behaviour and even personality.

Health conditions that fall under the term ‘dementia’ include Alzheimer’s disease, Lyme Disease and Korsakoff’s syndrome. It is also sometimes seen as a side effect of unhealthy lifestyle habits such as drug and alcohol abuse or medical conditions such as stroke.

Dementia usually occurs during the later part of life, which is why it is normally associated with the elderly. However, memory loss does not necessarily point to dementia. Other medical conditions such as depression may also lead to memory loss. Hence, dementia is usually diagnosed after close observation, medical tests and analyses by a qualified medical expert.

Identifying signs of dementia (image: Have a magnifying glass icon for this box)

Symptoms of dementia vary according to the cause of the condition. Here are some of the common symptoms of dementia:

  • Difficulty in communicating
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty in executing daily tasks
  • Inability to focus
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Personality changes
  • Inability to reason things out

If you have any of the symptoms above or know of someone who is experiencing these symptoms, be sure to seek advice from a medical expert. Doing this will give you assurance about the true status of your health and will help you avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and assumptions.

Is dementia treatable? (Image: Have a medical cross sign for this box)

Some cases of dementia are treatable whereas others do not have a specific treatment that can stop the cause of the dementia-related medical condition. However, in those cases, symptoms may be controlled with treatment. Depending on the type of dementia, treatment may include medication, therapy, rehabilitation and other alternatives such as acupuncture.

Some forms of dementia, which can be treated include:

  • Dementia caused by substance abuse
  • Dementia caused by tumours which can be removed via surgery
  • Dementia caused by hypoglycaemia

However, dementia that cannot be treated is caused by:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • AIDS

Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment. Remember, every individual is different and treatment depends very much on the type and severity of the condition.

Preventing dementia (Image: Stop sign)

There is no guaranteed way to prevent dementia. However, following these steps can help you lower your risk. The best part is, these steps can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. These steps include:

  • Limit your alcohol intake.

An occasional glass of wine may not do any harm but excessive alcohol will certainly affect your health.

  • Have an active lifestyle.

An active lifestyle is ideal for everyone. According to the Alzheimer’s Association in the United States, physical exercise may benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

  • An active social life

Living a life of loneliness can certainly affect your mental health. Stay socially active by extending your circle of friends or joining an association.

  • Enjoy a balanced diet

A balanced diet filled with fresh and natural ingredients are great for your overall health including your brain health. Don’t forget to indulge in fruits and vegetables that are brightly coloured as they are rich in antioxidants. Speak to a nutritionist or dietician if you need help with your food choices.

Dementia can affect anyone and while not all causes of dementia can be treated, there are still many ways to control the symptoms. Remember, early detection and treatment of any health condition, including dementia, will certainly create a higher possibility of managing the disease well.

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