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Dementia

Dementia is a syndrome associated with an on-going decline of the brain and its abilities. These include:

  • memory
  • thinking
  • language
  • understanding
  • judgement

People with dementia may also become apathetic, have problems controlling their emotions or behaving appropriately in social situations. Aspects of their personality may change or they may see or hear things that other people do not, or have false beliefs. Most cases of dementia are caused by damage to the structure of the brain. People with dementia usually need help from friends or relatives, including help in making decisions.

Dementia is a common condition. In England alone, there are currently 570,000 people living with dementia. That number is expected to double over the next 30 years.

Usually dementia occurs in people who are 65 or over. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop it. Dementia is slightly more common in women than in men.

Types of dementia

  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. During the course of the disease, the chemistry and structure of the brain changes, leading to the death of brain cells.
  • Vascular dementia, where problems with blood circulation result in parts of the brain not receiving enough blood and oxygen.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies, where abnormal structures, known as Lewy bodies, develop inside the brain.
  • Frontotemporal dementia, where the frontal and temporal lobes (two parts of the brain) begin to shrink. Unlike other types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia usually develops in people who are under 65. It is much rarer than other types of dementia.

There is no cure for dementia and symptoms will get worse over time. However, there are a number of effective treatments that can help people to cope better with their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

While it is not possible to prevent all cases of dementia, there are some measures that can help prevent vascular dementia, as well as cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and heart attacks. 

The best ways to prevent vascular dementia are:

  • eat a healthy diet
  • do not become overweight
  • get regular exercise 
  • only drink alcohol in moderation
  • do not smoke
  • make sure your blood pressure is checked and controlled
  • if you have diabetes, make sure you keep to the diet and take your medicines

There is some evidence that rates of dementia are lower in people who remain as mentally and physically active as possible throughout their lives, and have a wide range of different activities and hobbies.

Some activities that may reduce the risk of developing dementia include:

  • reading
  • writing for pleasure
  • learning foreign languages
  • playing musical instruments
  • taking part in adult education courses
  • playing tennis
  • playing golf
  • swimming
  • group sports, such as bowling
  • walking

To help prevent dementia, a low-fat and high-fibre diet is recommended. This includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and wholegrains. Limit the amount of salt that you eat to no more than six grams a day. Too much salt will increase your blood pressure, which puts you at risk of vascular dementia.

Avoid eating foods that are high in saturated fat because this will increase your cholesterol level, which also puts you at risk of vascular dementia.

Eating some foods that are high in unsaturated fat can decrease your cholesterol level. Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

  • oily fish
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • sunflower, rapeseed and olive oils

For more information visit: http://www.dementiauk.org/

 

 

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