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What Does Dementia Do To The Brain

Myth: If Your Parents Or Grandparents Had Alzheimers You Will Too

How does the brain work?

There is a genetic element to some forms of young-onset dementia, but it is important to realise that directly inheriting a single gene that causes Alzheimers is very, very rare.

With Alzheimers there are three genes that, if you have a specific form of them, suggest you will get the disease, says Dr Beanland. But those genes account for less than one per cent of all cases of Alzheimers. More normally there are genes that may be risk factors for the disease. So if you have a family history of Alzheimers that does increase your chances a bit, in the same way that, say, smoking increases your chances a bit, or head injuries increase your chances a bit, but it doesnt mean youll definitely get it.

As such, there is no routine genetic testing for dementia and Dr Beanland is no fan of home genetic tests ordered online. These dont look at the genes that mean you will definitely get the disease. Instead they look at the risk factor genes and I dont think theyre very helpful. GPs have been told to ignore them.

Usc Researchers Plan To Explore Whether Constricted Vessels Could Be Targeted By Existing Drugs That Were Approved For Treating Other Health Conditions

A combination of high blood pressure and decreased blood flow inside the brain may spur the buildup of harmful plaque and signal the onset of dementia, USC researchers have found.

If you have problems with the blood vessels in the brain, then youre going to end up with difficulty with thinking skills, cognition, memory, and ultimately this can be related to other brain pathologies such as Alzheimers disease, said Daniel Nation, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

For the study published June 1 in the journal Brain, Nation used patient data from a national medical database, the Alzheimers Disease Neuroimaging Initiative housed at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, to explore whether constricted blood flow contributes to the buildup of amyloid plaque and, consequently, to the onset of dementia. He also determined a new way to calculate cerebrovascular resistance a stiffening of the vessels that results from high blood pressure and low blood flow.

The brains blood vessels function as a plumbing system that delivers nutrients and oxygen to feed the brain cells and then flushes away any waste that the cells cannot use. The metabolic waste secreted by cells includes protein fragments amyloid that a healthy brain breaks down and expels by pulsating blood through its vessels.

Why Does Dementia Have An Impact On Everyday Life

Because its a progressive and degenerative brain disease, the effects of dementia impede messages that are transmitted in the brain. These messages help people execute day-to-day activities that we often see as mundane and take for granted. Here are the following functions that dementia affects, and the ADL this alters.

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Are There Medicines To Treat Dementia

There is no cure for dementia yet, but there are medicines that can help treat some of the symptoms of dementia. There are medications that may improve memory for a period of time. There are also medications that are effective for treating mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, which commonly occur in people with dementia. It is also important that your provider carefully evaluates any medicine someone with dementia is taking, because some medications may make memory symptoms worse.

How Can You Cope With Being The Caretaker Of Someone With Dementia

How Dementia Affects The Brain

It is important for someone who is the primary caregiver of a patient with dementia to have a strong network of support. This is needed both to aid in caring for the patient and to give the caregiver some intermittent relief. In the early stages, many caregivers function more as a helper or guide, providing reminders for different tasks. Later in the disease, caregivers may have to supply basic care to the patient, including assistance with bathing, dressing, and going to the bathroom.

Obtaining power of attorney status for financial and medical matters and determining when a patient is no longer able to perform certain activities, such as driving, are difficult but necessary actions. Local Alzheimer’s Association chapters are often helpful in completing these tasks. Enlisting the help of a patient’s physician or mandating an on-the-road driving assessment can place the responsibility of determining when a patient is no longer safe to drive on someone other than a caregiver or family member, as driving is often an action that many patients attempt to perform far past the time when it is safe to continue. There are many sources of assistance for caregivers of patients with dementia:

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver CenterAlzheimer’s Association

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How Common Is Dementia

According to the NHS, there are approximately 850,000 people with dementia in the United Kingdom. As longevity rates continue to increase, so is the number of reported cases. This is because dementia is more prevalent to older individuals. The NHS also estimates that there will be over 1 million people with dementia by 2025.

Key Points About Vascular Dementia

  • Vascular dementia is a disorder characterized by damaged brain tissue due to a lack of blood flow. Causes can include blood clots, ruptured blood vessels, or narrowing or hardening of blood vessels that supply the brain.
  • Symptoms can include problems with memory and concentration, confusion, changes in personality and behavior, loss of speech and language skills, and sometimes physical symptoms such as weakness or tremors.
  • Vascular dementia tends to progress over time. Treatments can’t cure the disease, but lifestyle changes and medicines to treat underlying causes might help slow its progress.
  • Surgical procedures to improve blood flow to the brain can also be helpful. Other medicines might slow the progression of dementia or help with some of the symptoms it can cause.
  • A person with vascular dementia may eventually need full-time nursing care or to stay in a long-term care facility.

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What Is Mixed Dementia

It is common for people with dementia to have more than one form of dementia. For example, many people with dementia have both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Researchers who have conducted autopsy studies have looked at the brains of people who had dementia, and have suggested that most people age 80 and older probably have mixed dementia caused by a combination of brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease,vascular disease-related processes, or another condition that involves the loss of nerve cell function or structure and nerve cell death .

Scientists are investigating how the underlying disease processes in mixed dementia start and influence each other. Further knowledge gains in this area will help researchers better understand these conditions and develop more personalized prevention and treatment strategies.

Other conditions that cause dementia-like symptoms can be halted or even reversed with treatment. For example, normal pressure hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, often resolves with treatment.

In addition, medical conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and delirium can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia, as can side effects of certain medicines.

Researchers have also identified many other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms. These conditions include:

Why You Dont Want To Install A Wood

What is dementia? Alzheimer’s Research UK

The Lancet research flagged that reducing your exposure to air pollution was one of the 12 most significant ways you could reduce your risk of dementia.

When youre out and about, try not to walk along the most polluted roads, says Prof Gill Livingston. Just walking two or three roads back can make a difference.

And if you have no choice, wear a mask. Although there are no long-term studies on masks, pollution and dementia, we know that masks filter out particles, so it makes sense they would make a difference, even if we dont know for sure.

You should be pretty safe once youre at home, says Prof Livingston unless you have an open fire, or you smoke. She warns against installing a wood-burning stove, though and not just for green reasons. Wood-burning stoves are intensely polluting of the air, and the particles that they produce are of the size that can lead to dementia.

Radiators might not be as trendy, but they might just save your brain.

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Why Early Detection Can Be Difficult

Alzheimers disease usually is not diagnosed in the early stages, even in people who visit their primary care doctors with memory complaints.

  • People and their families generally underreport the symptoms.
  • They may confuse them with normal signs of aging.
  • The symptoms may emerge so gradually that the person affected doesnt recognize them.
  • The person may be aware of some symptoms but go to great lengths to conceal them.

Recognizing symptoms early is crucial because medication to control symptoms is most effective in the early stages of the disease and early diagnosis allows the individual and his or her family members to plan for the future. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact a physician.

What To Watch For

Here are some of the warning signs identified by dementia experts and mental health organizations:

Difficulty with everyday tasks. Everyone makes mistakes, but people with dementia may find it increasingly difficult to do things like keep track of monthly bills or follow a recipe while cooking, the Alzheimers Association says. They also may find it hard to concentrate on tasks, take much longer to do them or have trouble finishing them.

Repetition. Asking a question over and over or telling the same story about a recent event multiple times are common indicators of mild or moderate Alzheimer’s, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Communication problems. Observe if a loved one has trouble joining in conversations or following along with them, stops abruptly in the middle of a thought or struggles to think of words or the name of objects.

Getting lost. People with dementia may have difficulty with visual and spatial abilities. That can manifest itself in problems like getting lost while driving, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Personality changes. A loved one who begins acting unusually anxious, confused, fearful or suspicious becomes upset easily or loses interest in activities and seems depressed is cause for concern.

Troubling behavior. If your family member seems to have increasingly poor judgment when handling money or neglects grooming and cleanliness, pay attention.

People with mild cognitive impairment are at an increased risk of developing dementia.

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Common Forms Of Dementia

There are many different forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and may contribute to 60-70% of cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies , and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia . Dementia may also develop after a stroke or in the context of certain infections such as HIV, harmful use of alcohol, repetitive physical injuries to the brain or nutritional deficiencies. The boundaries between different forms of dementia are indistinct and mixed forms often co-exist.

Dementia And The Brain

Understanding Different Types of Dementia

Knowing more about the brain and how it can change can help to understand the symptoms of dementia. It can help a person with dementia to live well, or to support a person with dementia to live well.

  • You are here: Dementia and the brain
  • These pages explain which areas of the brain are responsible for certain skills and abilities, and how these are affected by dementia. We explain how changes to the brain relate to changes a person may notice as the condition progresses.

    This information is helpful for anyone who wants to find out more about how the brain is affected by dementia.

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    Knowing The Stages Of Dementia Helps You Plan

    Even if the stages arent exact and symptoms can still be unpredictable, being able to plan ahead is essential.

    The truth is that Alzheimers and dementia care is expensive and time-consuming. Being financially prepared for increasing care needs is a necessity.

    On an emotional level, having an idea of what symptoms to expect helps you find ways to cope with challenging behaviors.

    It also gives you a chance to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable changes in your older adult.

    Dementia Affects People Differently

    There are different types of dementia. Each one is characterised by different patterns of symptoms, though every person with the same type of dementia wont necessarily exhibit the same set of symptoms, especially early on. Just as our personalities can be incredibly diverse, the way dementia may affect personality and behaviour can be very different between individuals.

    For example, a person with Alzheimers disease will have two main brain regions affected: the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex. The entorhinal cortex is a specialised part of the brain that works together with the hippocampus to form long-term memories. Together, they take the input from all our senses to help orientate us in space and time, and also help us form declarative memories – things like facts and memories of events.

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    The changes in the brain of a person with another type of dementia, known as Lewy body dementia, are less established. But they include damage to a slightly different part of the hippocampus, and a loss of neurons that produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine. These neurons are especially important for various aspects of movement, visual perception, and cognition. Because of this, people with Lewy body dementia might experience hallucinations and difficulties with movement.

    The temporal lobe , is the part of the brain that helps us process faces, sounds and scenes, as well as form memories.

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    Behavioural And Psychological Symptoms

    Many family members find that the behaviour of their loved ones has changed in the later stages of dementia. In some instances, they find their loved ones resist any help or assistance with day-to-day activities, further complicating things. Specialist care services from professional dementia and Alzheimers carers will help to alleviate this.

    Psychological And Psychosocial Therapies

    How Does Dementia Affect The Brain?

    Psychological therapies for dementia include some limited evidence for reminiscence therapy , some benefit for cognitive reframing for caretakers, unclear evidence for validation therapy and tentative evidence for mental exercises, such as cognitive stimulation programs for people with mild to moderate dementia. Offering personally tailored activities may help reduce challenging behavior and may improve quality of life. It is not clear if personally tailored activities have an impact on affect or improve for the quality of life for the caregiver.

    Adult daycare centers as well as special care units in nursing homes often provide specialized care for dementia patients. Daycare centers offer supervision, recreation, meals, and limited health care to participants, as well as providing respite for caregivers. In addition, home care can provide one-to-one support and care in the home allowing for more individualized attention that is needed as the disorder progresses. Psychiatric nurses can make a distinctive contribution to people’s mental health.

    Some London hospitals found that using color, designs, pictures and lights helped people with dementia adjust to being at the hospital. These adjustments to the layout of the dementia wings at these hospitals helped patients by preventing confusion.

    Cognitive training

    Personally tailored activities

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    Are There Any Treatments For Dementia

    At this time there is no treatment for dementia. There is only medical care that can help manage symptoms and support people through their gradual decline.

    The options for proper medical care with the diagnosis often include specialty caregivers, individual and family support groups, healthy diet and exercise, and frequent check-ins with your doctor.

    Depending on which stage of dementia you or your loved one is in, the level of care required will vary. Someone in the earlier stages might need little to no care if symptoms are mild and not affecting daily life.

    On the other hand, someone in the final stages of dementia will most certainly require 24/7 caregiving and constant supervision. If they dont have the proper care they need to avoid a risk factor such as choking or falling, it could lead to death.

    How Dementia Affects The Brain

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    Dementia is not kind to the brain. However, most people believe dementia destroys the entire brain at once. Actually, dementia only focuses on three of the six major regions of the brain. To understand the destruction of dementia you must understand each of the lobes which could be affected and then the functions carried out by that portion of the brain. Different types of dementia damage specific regions of the brain while leaving other regions untouched. For example, Alzhemiers is a type of dementia but it usually only ravages the memory which is located in the temporal lobe.

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    Common Causes Of Dementia

    Most commonly, dementia is

    Positron emission tomography or single-photon emission CT Single-photon emission computed tomography In radionuclide scanning, radionuclides are used to produce images. A radionuclide is a radioactive form of an element, which means it is an unstable atom that becomes more stable by releasing… read more is sometimes done to help doctors identify different types of dementia, such as Alzheimer disease, frontotemporal dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies. These imaging tests use radioactive substances to produce images.

    However, sometimes the cause of the dementia can be confirmed definitively only when a sample of brain tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. This procedure is sometimes done after death during an autopsy.

    What Increases The Risk For Dementia

    Does Fungus Cause Alzheimerâs Disease?
    • AgeThe strongest known risk factor for dementia is increasing age, with most cases affecting those of 65 years and older
    • Family historyThose who have parents or siblings with dementia are more likely to develop dementia themselves.
    • Race/ethnicityOlder African Americans are twice more likely to have dementia than whites. Hispanics 1.5 times more likely to have dementia than whites.
    • Poor heart healthHigh blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking increase the risk of dementia if not treated properly.
    • Traumatic brain injuryHead injuries can increase the risk of dementia, especially if they are severe or occur repeatedly.

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