Dementia illnesses / dementia.
What does dementia mean?
The term dementia is defined as a loss of mental abilities. This primarily means a loss of memory and cognitive ability. The loss of these abilities first affects the absorption and reproduction of new thought content, as a result of which the person's orientation (where am I, what is happening right now) and judgement, as well as their verbal and numeric abilities and parts of their personality, suffer damage. This may be reflected in everyday activities such as washing, cooking or shopping. Forgetfulness alone does not mean dementia.
Dementia is a common disease among the elderly.
Forms of dementia are among the most common and consequential neuropsychiatric disorders affecting the elderly. In Germany - among people aged 65 and over - there are currently almost one million people suffering from a form of dementia. The number of new sufferers is almost 200,000 per year. Almost half of people requiring nursing care in private households have a form of dementia, with this proportion rising sharply as the level of nursing care rises. At the same time, dementia is, by some distance, the major reason for admission to residential facilities. The proportion of residents in such facilities suffering from dementia has risen continuously in past decades. Currently, over 60 % of people in residential facilities are affected by this disorder.
Dementia. Information A to Z
Symtoms. Sights of dementia illnesses
What symptoms are associated with dementia?
The following symptoms may be indicative of dementia:
- Forgetting events in the recent past
- Difficulty performing regular tasks; Speech disorders
- Declining interest in work, hobbies and contacts
- Difficulty coping in an unfamiliar environment
- Loss of control over financial affairs
- Poor judgement of risks
- Previously unidentified mood swings, persistent anxiety, irritability and mistrust
- Stubborn denial of mistakes, errors or confusion
Causes. How does dementia develop?
Although a huge amount of knowledge has been gained in recent years regarding the possible mechanisms by which dementia develops, many questions still remain unanswered.
In cases of what is known as neurodegenerative dementia, various processes cause proteins to accumulate in the brain. Little by little, these lead to the death of brain cells. Depending on where this process is located, different symptoms will occur at different points during the disease.
However, it has become apparent that all of the factors (such as those that may lead to a stroke) also increase the risk of a patient developing dementia (e.g. smoking). Conversely, these same factors provide opportunities to prevent dementia (e.g. nutrition, sports).
Risk factors for the development of dementia.
Dementia can affect anyone. However, the risk increases with advancing age. The majority of people suffering from dementia are over 80 years old. There are certain risk factors which cannot be changed such as gender (men are slightly more at risk), age or hereditary disposition. Other circumstances, on the other hand, can certainly be influenced or changed. If several of these factors concur, then the risk is even higher:
- High blood pressure:
Constantly elevated blood pressure increases the likelihood of development of arteriosclerosis and thus the risk of stroke.
Smokers have a three to four times higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Nicotine is toxic to the blood vessels, greatly enhances the development of arteriosclerosis and reduces blood flow in the brain.
- Raised blood lipids:
If there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it becomes deposited on the inner walls of the blood vessels, which again promotes the development of arteriosclerosis.
- Heart diseases:
Problems with the heart rhythm (e.g. after a heart attack or inflammation) and congenital changes to the heart valves or the cardiac muscle may promote the formation of blood clots that may lead to a stroke.
- Diabetes mellitus:
Constantly raised blood glucose values damage blood vessels. Typical consequences of diabetes include arteriosclerosis, impaired blood flow, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol. Here, several risk factors come together.
- Being overweight:
Overweight people count among patients at risk of having a stroke because they suffer more often from high blood pressure, sleep apnoea syndrome, diabetes and raised blood lipids than people of normal weight.
- Other risk factors include:
Constant stress, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, thyroid disorders and vitamin deficiencies (vitamin B1 and B12).