Neurology, and the study of human brains, is an ever-evolving branch of medicine. Due to the complexity of the human brain, understanding the breadth of functions that exist within it is an ongoing pursuit. According to the World Health Organization, around 55 million people in the world are currently living with dementia, and up to 10 million new cases are discovered every year. To combat the development and spread of dementia, scientists are developing medicine geared towards cognitive retention and bolstered cognitive function, hoping to one day find a cure for dementia in all its forms.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a general term for various protein developments and deficiencies that can appear in the brain over time. Depending on various factors, most commonly age or family history, symptoms of dementia can develop at different points in an individual’s life. One of the best ways to determine whether dementia-related illnesses run in your family is to have a comprehensive understanding of your family medical history.
Dementia-related illnesses are not always determined by genetics, and some of the biggest contributing factors can be the result of external forces. For example, those who have suffered repeated head trauma can develop dementia symptoms after sustaining these injuries, leading to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms later in life. Other illnesses, like kidney disease, can also cause dementia symptoms, creating dementia-related disorders such as kidney neuropathy.
Common types of dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a hereditary condition that causes abnormal protein growths in the brain, commonly referred to as plaques and tangles, that suppress functioning neurons, leading to brain deterioration.
- Lewy body dementia. Similar to Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia is caused by protein growths in the brain pushing on healthy tissue, but the structure of these proteins differs from the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s. Lewy body dementia causes balloon-like tissue growth throughout the brain, leading to decreased cognitive function throughout.
- Vascular dementia. Blood flow to the brain is extremely important, and any issues with blood supply can cause a decrease in cognitive function. Typically resulting from strokes, vascular dementia is caused by the breakdown or damage of blood vessels throughout the white matter of the brain. This lack of blood flow causes cognitive difficulties, most notably involving issues focusing and decreased problem-solving capability.
- Parkinson’s disease with dementia. Parkinson’s disease is a particular form of Lewy Body dementia that involves protein development in the part of the brain responsible for movement, most notably causing tremors and problems with movement. As the disease progresses, protein developments cause the motor skills to lessen and become harder to manage.
- Frontotemporal dementia. Used as a catch-all term for deterioration found in the front and temporal lobes of the brain, Frontotemporal Dementia most commonly affects behavioral patterns of those suffering from the disease, causing a decline in conversational skills and mood stabilisation.
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). First named and discovered by Dr Bennet Omalu, CTE is a condition attributed to repeated traumatic injuries to the brain, most commonly studied in former football players and wrestlers.
How to combat dementia and its progression
For certain kinds of dementia, the development of symptoms is inevitable; however, preventative measures can be taken to increase cognition and promote brain health. Diet and exercise are two of the main ways to prevent the development of dementia, along with mentally stimulating activities like puzzles or word games.
In recent years, medical research pertaining to the Klotho protein has been discovered, providing an exciting glimpse into the future of dementia prevention. Klotho.com provides a wide array of research and information about Klotho protein research.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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