What is dementia?
Dementia is an overall term that describes a condition when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or a series of strokes. Dementia includes a wide range of symptoms: deterioration in memory and thinking skills, and other symptoms severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide; however, it is not a normal part of ageing. Dementia has physical, psychological, social and economic impact on caregivers, families and society which adds to the complexity of developing effective services.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 60 percent of dementia cases; vascular dementia (which occurs after a stroke) is the second most common dementia type.
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What are the symptoms of dementia?
Dementia has a variety of symptoms that result from damage to the brain and depends on the part of brain affected.
Signs of dementia can vary greatly. The most common examples of symptoms include:
- Memory problems - forgetting recent events, names and familiar faces
- Difficulty in communicating with others and finding right words
- Finding difficulty in doing familiar tasks, such as difficulty in handling money and shopping
- Confusion and becoming unaware of time and places
- Needing help with personal care
- Behavioral changes including wandering, aggression and asking repeated questions
- Mood changes
- Becoming more socially withdrawn
Many conditions are progressive, which means that the signs of dementia start out slowly and gradually get worse.
What are the risk factors for dementia?
Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it does not exclusively affect older people nor is it an inevitable consequence of ageing. Some research indicates the development of cognitive impairment may be impacted by lifestyle related risk factors, such as physical inactivity, obesity, unhealthy diets, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, diabetes, and midlife hypertension, similar to other non-communicable diseases.
Depression, low educational attainment, social isolation, and cognitive inactivity, may also impact the development of the condition. These are considered potentially modifiable risk factors which represent promising targets for intervention.
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Increases 5x >85 years of age
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Higher incidence among females than males
- Females at higher risk of contracting Alzheimer’s disease
- Males at higher risk of contracting
- vascular dementia
- Harmful alcohol consumption
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of social networks
- Low education
Genetic loading as in young onset (i.e. Downs Syndrome)
People can reduce their risk of dementia by:
- eating a healthy and balanced diet
- getting regular exercise
- maintaining a healthy weight
- avoiding alcohol consumption
- avoiding smoking
- maintaining healthy blood pressure
- controlling cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Treating potential hearing problems
How is dementia diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose dementia based on a person’s comprehensive medical history, a physical examination, laboratory tests, and reviewing any characteristic changes the person may exhibit in thinking, day-to-day function and behavior associated with each type of dementia.
If someone has concerns relating to memory loss, a memory assessment will be done. This includes mental status testing, which evaluates memory, ability to solve simple problems and thinking skills. Blood tests and brain imaging either with CT or MRI are also essential for dementia work up.
What are treatments for dementia?
There is no cure for dementia at present and symptoms of dementia tend to worsen with time. However, there are ways to slow down the progression of the disease if detected in the early stages.
There are many options to improve the quality of lives of people living with dementia and their families and carers. Current medications can help lessen or stabilize the symptoms. Exercises and activities for memory stimulation and rehabilitative programs can also help in improving the quality of life of affected people.
If you or your loved one who is above 65 years has concerns about memory issues, you can find expert help here.
Anyone who is over 65 years and has concerns about memory issues, they can
visit the Memory Clinic for a simple assessment:
- Alzheimer's and Dementia [Internet]. Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. 2019 [cited 1 October 2019]. Available from:
- Dementia [Internet]. Who.int. 2019 [cited 1 October 2019]. Available from:
- Dementia guide [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2019 [cited 1 October 2019]. Available from: