The term dementia refers to a series of conditions that affect the brain. It can go from being a bit forgetful and finding complex tasks and focusing more difficult, to being severely and progressively debilitating. At the end of the scale requires specialized care, treatment and support for the patient and his family.
There are many forms of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer's, where the brain develops small plaques that make normal signal and message movement difficult. Another type of dementia called vascular dementia occurs due to many microscopic mini-strokes.
When the brain is unable to send messages around as usual, we lose concentration, we cannot remember memories or even find it difficult to recognize friends and family. When we are severe we can become confused and even experience hallucinations or disappointments.
While dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, it can affect people younger than decades. Your GP or practice nurse can examine the condition using a simple questionnaire that collects the signs of dementia at an early stage. If the doctor is interested, they can also do blood tests to look for physical causes that can be cured.
We can't cure dementia, but there are drugs that can cure it and other things you can do to prevent it or slow it down. Hypertension, lack of exercise, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking increase the risk of developing dementia, as they can damage the small vessels that carry blood to the brain.
Keeping fit by regularly exercising and eating a balanced diet is a great way to take care of yourself, as well as get regular check-ups from your doctor.
Keeping your mind active and healthy is just as important, so if you feel like you're stuck in a roadway, challenge yourself to do something new. Your brain also needs exercise and learning new skills, socializing regularly, reading or doing puzzles can really help you stay mentally agile.
Staying independent and getting the support you need is so important and there is a lot of help out there for both patients and their families.
If you need help or are worried about someone, contact Andover Mind Dementia Advice on 01264 423 829, or join one of the memory clubs of Viables or Overton.
The dott. Jeff Stoker is a general practitioner in Bermuda and the Marlowe Practice in Basingstoke, with over 20 years of experience in the NHS.
North Hampshire GCC, List of Mental Health and Dementia in Older People: