Dementia – Here’s What You Need To Know

November 16, 2015   |   8 Comments   |   4

Contrary to public belief, dementia is not one specific disease, but rather a range of symptoms that are associated with cognitive decline and a reduction in a person’s ability to remain active and independent. There was a time when dementia was referred to as “senility” or having “senior moments,” but these monikers suggest that dementia is a normal part of aging, and this concept simply isn’t accurate.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for up to 80% of all dementia cases closely followed by vascular dementia, which typically occurs after a stroke. Dementia may also be caused by vitamin deficiencies and thyroid problems. These last two types are reversible in nature.

Signs and Symptoms

It’s important to note that signs and symptoms of dementia can greatly vary between individuals, but, generally speaking, there are a handful of core mental function impairments that suggest dementia:

  • Communication and language skills
  • Memory
  • Attention and focus
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

People suffering with dementia have problems with their short-term memory. While they can remember the name of their second grade teacher, they often have trouble remembering where they put their purse or wallet and lose track of appointments and paying bills.

Dementia is progressive. Symptoms may at first be mild and then slowly and gradually become worse and worse. Signs and symptoms should not be ignored. If you or a loved one are experiencing any change in memory or thought process, it’s important to recognize something may be wrong and make an appointment to visit your doctor.

Causes of Dementia

Dementia is caused when there has been some kind of damage to the brain. This damage then inhibits the brain cells’ ability to “talk” to each other. When brain cells are negatively affected in this way, the person has trouble thinking, behaving and feeling normally.

The varying types of dementia are caused by damage that occurs in different regions of the brain. For instance, with Alzheimer’s disease, cells become damaged in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is the epicenter of learning and memory.

How is Dementia Diagnosed?

Since dementia is not one specific disease, there is no one test to determine if someone has it. Alzheimer’s and other types of cognitive decline are diagnosed based on a careful medical history, physical examination, lab tests, and consideration of changes in thinking and behavior.

While doctors can diagnose dementia, determining the exact type can pose a challenge as symptoms of brain changes of different dementias can overlap. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to make a follow-up appointment with a specialist, such as a neurologist or gero-psychologist for a more complete diagnosis.

Who’s at Risk?

Why is it that some people develop dementia while others live into their 80s and 90s and stay sharp as a tack? While the exact answer to this question is not yet known, we do know there are several factors that affect a person’s risk of developing dementia, namely age, genes, certain health factors and lifestyle.

The risk of developing dementia increases the older we get. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 70 people aged 65-69 have dementia while nearly 1 in 4 individuals aged 85-89 have been diagnosed.

Though it seems genes play a small role in determining whether or not we will develop dementia, if you have a family history of dementia, you may have a higher risk of developing it yourself. This in no way means you are destined’ to get it, just that your chances are slightly increased compared to those who have no family history.

How Does Dementia Affect a Person’s Life?

Dementia can have a negative impact on all aspects of a person’s life, as well as their family’s life. Not only is their ability to think clearly impacted, but so are their emotions and overall personality. Someone who has always been joyful may become moody and ‘difficult’ to deal with.

Since the symptoms worsen over time, everyday tasks will become increasingly difficult to handle and eventually all independence may be lost.

3 Things to Help Fight Dementia

Though there is no known cure, researchers have begun to understand that lifestyle choices play a significant role in whether or not we develop dementia. Here are three things you can do to lessen your risk of developing dementia:

Stay Physically Active

A study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found that middle-agers who had higher levels of cardiovascular fitness were less likely to develop dementia as they aged. This discovery bolsters earlier research that found exercise may indeed be the key in maintaining a healthy mind as well as a healthy body.

An Optimized Diet Supports an Optimized Mind

Research is now indicating that our brains are affected by what we eat as well as what we don’t eat. A diet rich in fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats can decrease inflammation in the brain and provide the right nutrients to feed our cells. Some foods that are healthy choices are fatty fish, berries – particularly blueberries – greens such as spinach and kale, and green tea, which is high in antioxidants.

The Mediterranean diet is a great brain diet because it provides an individual with omega-3-rich fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and fresh, colorful produce.

It’s important to mention that brain health can also be impacted by frequent blood sugar spikes. For this reason a diet low in sugar, especially processed sugars and refined flours, is important to maintain proper glucose levels.

And finally, some good news for coffee lovers: caffeine has been found to be effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. This does not mean you need to consume cups and cups of it every day. Just one two to cups will bring benefits.

Keep Learning

You know the old phrase “use it or lose it,” well this applies to your brain as well. It’s incredibly important to keep your brain active as you age. Consider learning a new language or how to play a new instrument, read more, do the crossword puzzle, or play computer games. Heck, try to write that novel you always wanted to write, just be sure to keep your brain challenged and stimulated throughout your entire life.

Hopefully this post has not only given you important information that will help you identify the warning signs of dementia but also empower you to take action and lower your risk.

Be sure to keep an eye out for my next post where I will share information that is extremely important for people fighting cognitive decline.


  1. Rebecca ocholla

    July 14, 2019 Reply

    Good article will read more when I get free time

  2. Susan J. Downey

    October 4, 2017 Reply

    Both my dad and mother-in-law ended up with Dementia. It is a terrible disease to see your love ones go through and pass away with. We saw a number of various symptoms that were happening to both of them. At least it didn't happen to both of them at the same time in our lives. It was hard enough with my mom in a nursing home (past away at 82) and seeing my mother-in-law going through her changes. We lived 2 hrs away from both my dad (R.I) my mother-in-law and mom in the western part of MA, while we live in the eastern part of MA. both working full time jobs and our daughter's were in school at the time and their activities.
    I recall when we went to see my mother-in-law and she wouldn't let one of my twin daughter's come into her house, and ask her to leave, for she didn't recognize her, because my daughter had her contacts on not glasses, she lost weight, and she had a different style of a hair cut. Her twin sister felt amazed that she would do this to her sister, for they are fertile twins, so their grandmother did know the difference when she so them, usually, not this time. So I took my daughter a side in the living room and ask her to talk/sing to her grandmother that was in the kitchen. Then grandmother recognized her, and let her in. She would tell us that we couldn't sit on the couch, because the babies were laying on the couch. Probably recall when the girls were babies. So she had recall for years before but now know. My husband and I weren't married, he was in the Navy and visiting, that was her recall about her older son, yet, we were married at least 20 or so years with our twin daughters. She could knit beautiful things and had taught me some different styles, yet when we came to visit she would ask me to teach her how to knit. There were many other examples, but I won't go into it. Her younger son was still living at home and trying to take care of her the best that he could and working at least 1.5 hours away. He would find her walking around the neighborhood. Thank God for the neighbors, he had to put her a nursing home. The last time my husband and I saw her at the nursing home it was just awful, she died a few day later at the age of 82 years. My father-in-law died, around 73 years with cancer.
    My dad was living in his home by himself after his wife past away, my step mother. I went down to R.I. to go visit him and we went over all his medications, his important information that I needed to know etc. He let me know that he was in the start of Dementia and my heart just dropped, almost. Here we go again was my thought. How do I deal with another Parent with this disease? My older brother was 4-5 hours away, my sister was at least 3 hours away, but we felt we had time. My dad finally called me, into three years with Dementia and wanted me to move down to R.I. and take care of him. Oh, My what was I going to do, I have a full time job, activities that I am involved in, my daughters are now in college, and one goes to the college I work at and needs me to take her back and forth to classes everyday. Well, I was honest with my dad, and told him we, my daughters and I were coming down and would visit for the whole weekend. We try to explain why I couldn't move. We had been picking him up for the Christmas Holiday's and taken him to visit with my sister for the last three years. What was going to happen to my health if I didn't take care of myself and my immediate family. So my older brother and I had to make the decide to put him in a home for Dementia. He lived there for at least 5 to 6 months, and past away at the age of 91 years. Yes, we had great neighbors for both parents and they would let us know what was going on with them, when we weren't around. I went to the college and picked up and read books on the topic, and still found myself at what to do.....Now, my husband and I are getting older and I really don't want my daughters to have to deal with us and Dementia, for I know I have a busy life and I have a grandson that loves us all very much. So guess what I read your information and have ordered your book. We continue to do number puzzles, my husband and I. I keep active with my grandson, and do various projects with him, coloring, numbers and letters, and of course, THOMAS THE TANK TRAIN. I go to the beach, go to the park, and attend his Soccer games, and we play soccer together. He helps me with outside garden, laundry, and pick up his toys. He loves so go shopping and make sure the toys are put in the proper place. He makes me Laugh.
    My husband had his left hip replacement this past June, a few years ago I had Rotator Cuff Surgery done on my right shoulder and had work done on my left foot. We take our various vitamins daily, and continue to work and try to keep our Brain Healthy. Sometimes I feel that I am at a "Senior Moment" because I can't find my cell phone, my glasses, or my keys, but I know part of it's because I have a busy life. Hopefully, your book will assist with what we need. Thanks so much. For I know that I have read another person that is going the same root as you have to assist people before getting Dementia.

  3. Martha Norrell

    March 27, 2017 Reply

    I was diagnosed with dementia several years ago...I am 73 right now. I recognized the symptoms because My Mother had dementia and I had to be careful about telling her some things, like when my brother died I could not tell her because she would grieve over that every time I would tell her so I would always tell her he was okay. When I realized that my memory was going in that direction I went to a doctor and he put me on Namenda, he said it was not a cure but could slow down the disease. I have been on that for several years. Something that seems to help me is writing my journal everyday because I can go back and read it and that helps me to remember things I have done during the is just simple and anyone else reading it would probably be bored. I also write poems, when something or someone gets on my mind I write a poem about it. Having someone around that really loves you and looks out for you also makes things better and I have that in my husband...he really takes good care of me and I love him so much for that. He does most all of the cooking now. I find that as long as I have a routine each day that helps also. When things get out of order then I get confused. I also write notes if there is something we need to do. I put a note pad by my bed and write down what day it will be when I wake up. I try to be organized but sometimes if things get out of order then I can get confused. I put all appointments we have in my IPad and I check it every day. There may come a time when I can't do all this but I am blessed with a family that loves me and I know they will see that I am taken care of. I have ordered the Primal Health book a few days ago and look forward to getting it.

  4. * Name

    February 5, 2017 Reply

    Arthur, I came across this article on dementia. I think it is informative for both of us. Actually, it is a very general term and can mean many things.

  5. Sonia

    October 23, 2016 Reply

    I love this article. I have already ordered the book and I am hoping to purchase the recipe book soon together with the shopping list. Sounds really helpful for creating the correct dietary method in helping with lots of health problems. So happy to have clicked on the initial ad that popped up. Thank you Dr. Will.

  6. Ruth E Shapiro

    August 31, 2016 Reply

    I am totally convinced that this book will be THE ANSWER for me!!!!!!!!

  7. Ruth E Shapiro

    August 31, 2016 Reply

    I am very interested in buying this book to help me avoid Dimentia

  8. Jennifer Browning

    April 29, 2016 Reply

    I think this article on Dementia, is excellent and concise. Thank you very much.

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