A collection of information. This is not definitive and detailed, consult elsewhere for this info; and this is not something you should rely upon for diagnosis or treatment.
Information here comes from Alzheimer's & Dementia for Dummies (much material is taken from and verbatim from this book) available on Amazon, Lexington Cary Memorial Library, and likely elsewhere. See bibliography below for more info.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia is a general category of medical conditions that affect normal brain functioning.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines dementia as [A] syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (i.e., the ability to process thought) beyone what might be expected from normal aging. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement. Consciousness is not affected. The impairment in cognitive function is commonly accompanied, and occasionally preceded, by deterioration in emotional control, social behavior, or motivation.
Some terms used
The most common misconceptions about dementia
Alzheimer's is a form of dementia; those with AD have dementia, but not all those with dementia have AD. The Alzheimer's Association defines Alzheimer's disease as “an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” AD is a fatal disease, ending inevitably in death.
Anormal deposits of specific proteins in the brain disrupt normal brain function; as these deposits spread, brain tissue starts dying leading to further cognitive impairment. The brain shrinkage can be seen in CT and MRI scans.
Less than 5% of all cases of AD run in families.
A blood test can tell you whether you have a certain form of cholesterol-carrying protein associated with a higher incidence of AD but more than half with the risk factor never get AD. Because of the low correlation between the protein in the blood and getting AD, it's best not to take the blood test or have genetic testing to spare you from unnecessary worry.
A clear correlation between increasing age and chances of developing dementia.
|Age||Number diagnosed dementia|
|<65||1 in 1,500|
|65-70||1 in 100|
|71-79||1 in 20|
|80-89||1 in 4|
|90+||1 in 3|
Most common form of dementia, in USA, 62-80% of cases.
Is 5th leading cause of death in Americans >65
Second most common, in USA, 10% of cases.
Previously known as multi-infarct or post-stroke dementia, resulting from stroke.
Similar symptoms to AD but depend on parts of the brain affected by stroke.
Rare, <4% of cases.
Lewy bodies are protein deposits that damage brain cells, these also found in those with Parkinson's disease, thus an overlap in symptoms between these two conditions.
Symptoms similar to AD, but sufferers also develop muscle stiffness, tremors, and shakiness in their limbs, and slower movement. Also frequent visual hallucinations, seeing animals or people that aren't there.
Least common of these, affects about 50,000 in US and is <2% of dementia cases. This type is most likely of these 4 types to be diagnosed in those under 65.
Shares many features of AD but also has symptoms: strange or sexually disinhibited behavior, lack of empathy, poor personal hygiene, apathy and loss of motivation, increased appetite for sweet or fatty foods, and repetitive and compulsive speech and actions.
Like dementia, mild cognitive impairment [MCI] can affect a variety of normal thought processes including memory, planning, and judgement, but it doesn't impact mood or a person' ability to perform day-to-day functions. While it can be a sign of future dementia (most likely AD), 60% of those developing mild cognitive impairment don't get any worse and some get better.
In a person with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment), it's not uncommon to notice the following
Developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg in 1982, shows generally follow this progression of those with MCI that progress to dementia.
|Stage 1||No problems identified|
|Stage 2||Patient recognizes that he/she has a problem, perhaps remembering names, but he/she scores normally on diagnostic tests|
|Stage 3||Subtle problems carrying out thought processes start to affect work and social activities. Tests may begin to pick up problems – this is MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment)|
|Stage 4||Clear-cut difficulties develop in terms of memory and carrying out tasks such as dealing with finances or traveling. Denial is common; early dementia has set in.|
|Stage 5||The person needs some assistance but is capable o washing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom, and choosing appropriate clothes. Forgetfulness (names, places) is becoming more severe.|
|Stage 6||The person is largely unaware of anything that's happening to him/her in the recent past. He/she needs help with most of the basic activities of daily living and may need to be in a nursing home. Incontinence is common.|
|Stage 7||By this stage the person is experiencing severe dementia. He/she's completely dependent on others for everything, often including mobility. Verbal communication skills are extremely restricted.|
No specific treatment exists.
It might help to address risk factors for poor circulation by: control blood pressure, eat low-carb and high-fiber diet, quit smoking, limited alcohol, and getting regular exercise.
Evidence suggests that keeping the brain mentally active can help: word and number puzzles, reading, maintaining stimulating hobbies, social activities.
Consider reading Staying Sharp for Dummies which discusses this evidence in detail.
Top ten most important early symptoms to look out for. It's more than just being forgetful; to be diagnosed, someone must show at least 2 if not more of these 10, which can be subtle to start with.
Books referenced herein and other useful materials. Available on Amazon, but also in libraries and other bookstores.