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Understanding Dementia: What Are Basic Signs and Who Is At Risk - DementiaGuide.com
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Understanding Dementia

Posted on May 12, 2008 by DementiaGuide

Understanding Dementia

What is dementia?

Dementia is a disease that affects one's cognitive ability, or the ability to process and communicate information in a coherent and rational manner. Specifically, dementia happens when the cerebral cortex of the brain begins to degenerate and brain cells begin to die, thus impairing the brain's ability to dictate normal cognitive and sensory functions. Once dementia gets underway, cognitive processes such as listening, comprehension, memorization, speech, learning, feeling, judging, and decision-making are compromised. In more advanced cases of dementia, one's ability to interact in business, social situations, or intimate affairs may be limited to the point of isolation. As dementia progresses, the person often requires around the clock care or supervision.


Basic signs and symptoms of dementia

Dementia is often difficult to detect in the early stages. Early symptoms of dementia may be tough to pinpoint and tend to vary widely from person to person. However, those with dementia commonly report short-term memory loss as the first noticeable sign. In addition to short-term memory loss, the following are also common early signs and symptoms of dementia: generalized confusion and disorientation; changes in mood, personality, and behavior; difficulty performing common tasks such as cooking, getting dressed, paying bills, and driving, and trouble with verbal and written communication.

Who is at risk for dementia?

More research is required on the risk factors for dementia. However, the main risk factor for dementia is age, and the risk of developing dementia increases greatly over age 65. Additional risk factors for dementia include a lack of higher education, a sedentary and/or socially isolated lifestyle, obesity, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. Furthermore, scientists have proposed that dementia risk may be reduced by regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, and the maintenance of an active social and intellectual life; however, much of this information remains speculative.

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