Beaufort Memorial’s Living Well Blog brings health and wellness to Lowcountry living.

What is Dementia?

Posted by Living Well Team on Jun 5, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Mazzeo_Paul.jpgHere are excerpts from a recent presentation on memory loss by Dr. Paul Mazzeo, director of the Beaufort Memorial Memory Center.

As we age, some memory loss is to be expected. I’m in my early 50s. I would say from my mid-40s until now, I‘ve noticed my ability to recall new information isn’t as sharp as it was in my 20s.

A certain level of decline is expected with age, and it’s not pathological. In other words, it's not a disease process. But there are other forms where your declining memory heralds the development of some type of neurological disorder.

About 15 to 20 percent of people over the age of 65 have what we refer to as mild cognitive impairment and decline in memory. You notice it yourself or people around you notice it, but it doesn't affect your daily activities such as your ability to pay your bills, drive or socialize.

Types of memory loss include:
Memory distortion: This occurs when you have a memory of a particular event, but as time goes by, its details may become distorted, sometimes to the point where the story you’re telling or recalling is completely different from how it took place.

Mild cognitive impairment: In this case, a noticeable change in your memory and other thinking abilities occurs, but it does not impact your everyday life.

Unfortunately, about one third of people with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer's dementia within five years.

Much research has been devoted to figuring out who that one-third are. Can we identify those people and intervene earlier than we do now with things like diet and exercise and maybe even pharmacological therapies to prevent the advancement of dementia?

elderly_memory.jpgDementia symptoms include:

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Forgetting common words when speaking
  • Mixing words up – e.g.., saying “bed” for “table”
  • Taking longer to complete familiar tasks (e.g., following recipes, balancing your checkbook)
  • Misplacing items in inappropriate places
  • Getting lost in familiar neighborhoods
  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior for no reason
  • Diminished ability to follow directions

Dementia comes in many forms, including:
Alzheimer’s disease: Accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

Vascular dementia: Caused by a significant stroke or multiple small strokes.

Mixed: The third most common type of dementia. This means you have vascular damage as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

The 10 percent of remaining cases fall into the following categories:
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB): Similar to Parkinson’s disease, but with memory loss and hallucinations.

Frontemporal (FTLD, Pick’s Disease): Tends to affect behaviors, as the frontal lobe’s task is to inhibit inappropriate behaviors.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: This disorder belongs to a family of human and animal diseases that quickly infect and degrade the brain. While some people inherit it, most often it appears sporadically. It’s so rare it affects only one person in a million.

Normal pressure hydrocephalus: A condition in which the body makes too much spinal fluid and can’t resorb it. This causes the cavities or the ventricles in the brain to get larger and larger, affecting memory and the ability to walk and urinate.

To learn more about memory care at Beaufort Memorial, click here.

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