What is Dementia?

Published by Steve Hedberg on April 23, 2009 Under dementia

olderladyThe term dementia refers to a group of diseases that causes the progressive loss of an individuals mental capabilities.

Typically the first symptoms of dementia are memory loss and low attention span, eventually leading to learning difficulties, poor judgment, depression, and severe confusion. Increased argumentativeness and aggression are also not uncommon. Dementia is more common among the elderly and there is no cure for the most common types of dementia.

It should be noted that dementia is not really the same as insanity, although they often share many similarities. Instead, their mind fails them, specifically the parts of the brain that set us apart from other mammals, and they begin to loose the ability to process information.

It is also important to note that dementia is not a normal part of aging. In the United States, approximately 10 percent of seniors over the age of 65 are moderately demented and 5% suffer from severe dementia. This leaves 85% of seniors who are not noticeably effected by dementia.

However, while dementia is not a normal part of aging, it is more common with age, with approximately 2 million Americans over the age of 65 classified as suffering from severe dementia.

It is true that neurons in the brain die as we age, but under normal conditions they do not die in large enough numbers to effect an individuals intelligence. Instead, the loss of these neurons slows down the body’s response time, while the underlying intelligence and understanding remains. However, in the case of an individual with dementia, the brain deteriorates much more rapidly than is normal, causing a number of mental health problems.

Dementia is not limited to only those over the age of 65 though, and can instead effect people of all age. About half of those who experience presenile dementia have been diagnosed with a disease, like Alzheimer’s, which reduces mental functionality.

In large part, it is our culture that has brought about the unfair stereotype that ones mental faculties will automatically deteriorate with age. Words like senility and senile fill our vocabulary, but unfairly paint seniors as all being effected by dementia. This is simply not the case, though, and while the neurons in the brain do die with age, this is typically not sufficient to effect ones mental capabilities.

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