Alzheimer's & Dementia

The word dementia means deprived of mind. It is a catchall term that covers memory loss, confusion, changes in personality, a decline in thinking skills, and dwindling ability to perform everyday activities.

There are many types of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common. Half or more of people with dementia have Alzheimer's disease. It is caused by the accumulation of tangles and clumps of protein in and around brain cells. These tangles and clumps make it difficult for brain cells to communicate with one another, and can eventually kill them.

Vascular dementia, the second most common type, develops when cholesterol-clogged arteries can't deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Sometimes small blockages completely cut off the blood supply to a part of the brain, causing nearby brain cells to die.

The terms dementia and Alzheimer's are often used interchangeably. In part, that's because it is very hard to tell them apart. Usually, a specific type of dementia can only be diagnosed by an autopsy after someone has died.

Dementia affects areas of the brain involved in learning and memory. So a common symptom is difficulty in recalling new information. Memory loss disrupts daily life. An individual with dementia may get lost in a once-familiar neighborhood. He or she may have increasing trouble making decisions, solving problems, or making good judgments. Mood and personality may change. A person with dementia can become more irritable or hostile, or lose interest in almost everything.

Once dementia has developed, it is usually hard to reverse. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and slow its progression. Some medications can help slow the intellectual decline in mild to moderate dementia. Psychotherapy techniques like reality orientation and memory retraining can also help people with this condition.

A small percentage of people with dementia develop the condition because of medical issues such as an underactive thyroid gland, an infection, not getting enough vitamin B12, medication side effects, or drinking too much alcohol. In these cases, treating the underlying cause can reverse the dementia.

Alzheimer's & Dementia Articles

The thinking on flavonoids

Flavonoids, a class of micronutrients found in most plant foods, have been shown to possibly reduce the risk of dementia by protecting brain cells, improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation. Following a plant-based diet and aiming for at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day can help people get sufficient amounts of flavonoids. (Locked) More »

Lowering blood pressure may help prevent dementia

Even slightly elevated blood pressure in middle age has been linked to a 30% higher risk of dementia two decades later. High blood pressure accelerates atherosclerosis and leaves people prone to an ischemic stroke, which may contribute to vascular dementia. But high blood pressure can also cause the walls of smaller arteries to thicken, raising the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Minor strokes in smaller vessels may go unnoticed, but the damage from many small, silent stokes may accumulate, leading to cognitive problems. Taking blood pressure drugs may help people avoid these risks. More »

Music to your brain

Music has unique effects on the brain, engaging different parts of the brain simultaneously. It has been shown to have the ability to alter mood and even improve memory. Musical memories are stored in same part of the brain as habit-memories, such as riding a bike. This may explain why people with Alzheimer’s disease are sometimes able to remember how to play an instrument, when other memories have faded. (Locked) More »

Testing for dementia

There is no cure for dementia, and people cannot substantially reverse its effects, but there are ways to possibly slow its progression. But first, people need to know if they may have a memory disorder. Testing to confirm Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is a multilayered process that includes several types of neuropsychological evaluations and biomarker testing. (Locked) More »