Does Dementia Kill You? A Guide to Understanding Dementia
Dementia is one of those things that everyone knows of but they don’t know a whole lot about. First, dementia is not a specific disease. It is really a group of related symptoms that affect your memory, thinking, and mental processing. The most common symptom is, of course, memory loss. and the most common cause of dementia in the elderly is Alzheimer’s disease. However, just memory loss alone does not mean you have dementia or Alzheimer’s. But it is a sign you should talk with your doctor. Dementia can lead to serious disability and even death.
The Symptoms of Dementia
The symptoms of dementia vary from person to person. Some of these symptoms are reversible but it depends on the cause. The most common symptoms of dementia are:
• Memory loss
• A hard time talking to people
• Struggling to find the words you want to use
• A hard time solving problems because you can’t figure out solutions
• A problem trying to do complicated tasks
• Difficulty planning
• Difficulty organizing
• A hard time getting your hands and feet to do what you want them to
• Changes in your personality
• Changes in your attitude
You should see your doctor if you are having problems with one or more of these symptoms. Once your doctor figures out the cause, they may be able to help you. Some of the symptoms do have treatments that can help.
Living with Dementia
Once you have had dementia for a while, the disease will get worse. Your body will not be able to deal with infections. You could have a heart attack or a clot in your lung. Sometimes, dementia all by itself can kill you.
Once the symptoms start, the average person will live around eight years. This is different for everyone, and some people have lived for over ten years. But, you don’t have to suffer. There are things you can do to feel better and live longer.
The Risk Factors for Dementia You Cannot Change
Dementia affects people of all ages. Yes, young people can get dementia but it is much more common in older adults. The risk is a lot higher if you are over 65.
There seems to be a genetic link too. If anyone in your family has dementia, your risk for the condition is higher. There are people with dementia in their family that never get the disease. And also people who get the disease when there is no family history. There are genetic tests you can take to help find out your risk of getting dementia.
Dementia is more common with certain other disorders. For example, a lot of people with Down’s syndrome have dementia or Alzheimer’s by the time they are middle age.
If you are having problems with your memory, but can still handle your daily chores you are at increased risk. This is called mild cognitive impairment and you should talk to your doctor if you suspect this.
The Risk Factors for Dementia You Can Change
There are a lot of things you can do to help with your dementia symptoms. Many of the following risk factors you can control.
Drinking Less Alcohol
If you drink a lot of alcohol, it will increase your risk of getting dementia. There have been many links between alcohol and dementia. Drinking less alcohol is a positive step for you to take.
Your Heart Health
The health of your heart is very important. You can help prevent dementia by taking the following steps. Have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked by your doctor. If they are high, ask about medication to lower them. High Cholesterol and blood pressure both increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimier’s.
Losing Extra Weight
Carrying around a lot of extra weight increases dementia risk. Try eating smaller, healthier meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are good for your body. Take leisurely walks with a family member or friend. Losing most of the extra weight can often lower your chances of getting dementia.
The Mediterranean diet is excellent. This is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and omega-3 fatty acids. You can get these from certain nuts and fish. Eating the right foods may improve your health, and help prevent dementia.
Controlling Your Diabetes
If you have diabetes and it is not being controlled properly, you are increasing your chances of getting dementia. Sometimes type II diabetics can reverse their condition with more exercise and a healthier diet. Try sugar-free snacks and desserts instead of sugar. Reduce your processed carb intake too.
Smoking can increase your risk of dementia. It can also cause many other serious diseases too. If you need something in your mouth, it may help to suck on cinnamon toothpicks or a piece of sugar-free candy. Your doctor can give you good advice on how to quit smoking.
If you are an older adult and feel depressed, you need to see your doctor. Depression later in life is one of the first signs of dementia.
I can tell you there is no way to guarantee you can prevent dementia, but you can greatly reduce your risk. There are many ways to your mind active. Read a good book, play word games and solve puzzles. This can help delay dementia and maybe lessen your symptoms.
You can also keep active. Visit your friends and family and have a nice conversation. Social interactions are important. Try to exercise for 150 minutes every week (that’s only 25 minutes a day!). Dancing and walking are enjoyable activities that are also exercise too.
You are more likely to get dementia if you level of vitamin D is low. The right foods, being out in the sun, and supplements will make you level of vitamin D higher. I know researchers are still studying this, but its good to have the right level of vitamin D anyway.
The Complications of Dementia
Unfortunately, dementia usually leads to serious complications. A lot of people with dementia have a hard time eating because chewing and swallowing become difficult. The lack of nutrients will weaken your body. Also, when you have a problem swallowing, your risk of choking increases. This can block you from breathing right and cause aspiration pneumonia.
Dementia may eventually stop you from being able to take care of yourself. Things like dressing, bathing, going to the bathroom by yourself, brushing your teeth or hair, and taking your medication become too hard. You may have issues with your safety including cooking, driving or walking by yourself. This is usually the time when it becomes necessary to evaluate getting help at home or possibly moving somewhere that can help.
The latest stages of dementia can lead to a coma and death. This is often because of an infection.
Always Continue Fighting
If you do not have dementia but are at risk, take every step you can to prevent the disease. Talk to your family and doctor to find out what you can do to reduce your risk. I hope the suggestions above will help you too.
If you do have dementia, do your best to manage your symptoms. Follow the advice of your doctor and the people who love you. Remember medicine is finding new cures and making new discoveries all the time. Keep believing, and keep fighting.
So, Does Dementia Kill You?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is yes. Even though dementia is considered a syndrome composed of a group of primarily mental symptoms, it does also cause physical problems too like strokes and heart problems. Some of these physical conditions are related to the mental decay because the person can no longer care for themselves properly. Also, people with dementia are at higher risk for falls and accidents which also contribute to the mortality rate.
Do you have any additional tips or information about dementia you would like to share? Please feel free to use the comments below. If you found this information helpful, please share this article on your favorite social media too.
Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®
About This Site
Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS Founder / Editor
My name is Scott Grant and I work daily with seniors as a custom wheelchair specialist at a home medical equipment company. I see these people struggle as they lose their independence. I watch their families try to help them but most don't even know where to start. Few are even aware of their options. I'm here to help!
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