What is Dementia?

Dementia is a clinical term that describes a loss of general intelligence from a previous level. There also needs to be a memory deficit and other cognitive problems such as language or visuospatial prolems. Personality is changed and there is functional decline.

It is important to note that there are approximately 100 different causes of dementia with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) being the number one cause. AD accounts for nearly 50-70% of all dementias and 95% of all dementias are irreversible. Examples of reversible dementias include B12 deficiency, thyroid disorder and depression.

It is important to seek a comprehensive dementia workup if there is any question that a loved one may be demonstrating signs of a dementia.

To Learn more about Brain Plasticity & Cognitive Reserve

Diabetes and Dementia

A recent study in Journal of the American Medical Association provides further support for a relationship between the risk factors of type II diabetes and dementia. This particular study focused on episodes of hypoglycemia and its influence on risk for dementia.

With diabetes there exist a number of health related factors such as obesity, imbalance of glucose, high blood pressure, stroke, abnormal cerebrovascular flow, and heart and other major system dysfunction. Either these factors combined or with a focus on glucose stabilization which can adversely affect the function of neurons, there appears to be a critical risk enhancement to development of dementia in later life.

The important point here is that diabetes with all of its risk factors are cumulative and have a proactive and lifelong effect. This underscores the need for a proactive and lifelong healthy lifestyle, including that for the brain. Nutrition and physical activity are two primary lifestyle behaviors critical for combating type II diabetes.

Eating brain healthy foods and remaining physically active to enhance blood flow to the brain are both necessary and fundamental to a healthy lifestyle and to combating the risk for type II diabetes.

Aerobic Exercise, Hippocampal volume, and Spatial Memory

It has been know for some time that aerobic exercise and physical activity helps to increase cognitive function and perhaps delay onset of Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study provides some explanation for how this might occur.

It is known that deterioration of the hippocampus occurs as part of the aging process. The hippocampus (i) is the structure deep in the middle of the temporal lobe that helps to form new memories and spatial memory. Changes in the structure and function occur in the hippocampus with advanced age, chronic stress, and Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, studies indicate an enriched environment that includes physical activity can lead to neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

A recent study by Erickson and colleagues (2009) investigated high versus low levels of aerobic exercise in non-demented older adults on volume of the hippocampus and on spatial memory. Results indicate that higher fitness levels were associated with larger left and right hippocampi and larger hippocampi and higher fitness levels were related to better spatial memory performance.

The authors assert that higher levels of aerobic exercise are related to increased hippocampal volume in older humans, which translates to better memory performance.

Dr. Nussbaum, Chief Scientific Officer of Fitbrains, Inc. presents a brain health lifestyle that includes physical activity paulnussbaum.com .

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a clinical term used to describe loss of general intelligence, forgetfulness, language or other cognitive disturbance, personality change, and functional decline. There are nearly 70 or more causes of dementia, with the most common cause attributed to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Other common causes of dementia include Vascular dementia (VaD), Lewy Body Dementia, Alcohol and substance based dementia, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, head injury, seizure disorder and many others.

Most causes of dementia are irreversible meaning the dementia will not be cured or get better. Only 3-5% of dementias are considered reversible. Examples of reversible dementia include B-12 deficiency, depression, and thyroid disorder. Alzheimer’s disease, the leading type of irreversible dementia affects those primarily over the age of 65. There is no know cause of AD nor is there any cure at this time.

Medications exist to treat the symptoms of dementia without actually stopping the underlying disease process. Often persons with dementia can become depressed, anxious, or even psychotic. These co-morbid conditions can be effectively treated with psychotropic medication, structure and a supervised environment.

Dementia extracts an enormous emotional toll and financial toll on families. Caregiving is fast becoming a major issue for baby boomers. Primary caregivers often suffer fatigue, depression, and physical illness as they wear down with the new role. Unfortunately dementia will become a bigger problem as the number of older persons on the planet increases.