Dementia refers to a group of illnesses with symptoms like impaired memory or inability to process thoughts. One kind of dementia that many people have heard about is Alzheimer's disease, opens a new window. According to the Alzheimer's Association,other types of dementia, opens a new window include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.
Some people think that a decline in cognitive, opens a new window skills is simply a natural part of the aging process, opens a new window, but that isn’t completely true. Generally speaking, the mental decline that occurs with dementia is the result of small amounts of damage to the brain over time, which add up to noticeable mental impairment.
If you are worried that you might be developing dementia, visit your doctor, opens a new window. It might not be dementia, but if it is, this gives you the ability to get treatment that could lessen or slow memory loss and confusion. It also gives you time to make lifestyle changes that can benefit your brain function.
Some risk factors for dementia, opens a new window involve things we can change about the way we live. Making these changes may prevent, opens a new window us from getting dementia, or at least slow the onset of dementia:
- If we have an illness like diabetes or high blood pressure (which, if left untreated, damages our blood vessels - and, as a result, causes damage to our brains), make sure to follow the treatment plan we have discussed with our doctors.
- Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active.
- Don't smoke. (Smoking can also result in damage to your blood vessels.) If you do smoke, try to quit smoking, opens a new window.
- If you think you might have depression, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. (Extended bouts of untreated depression are linked to having dementia later in life.)
- Do activities that engage and exercise your mind, like reading and doing puzzles.
- Try not to spend all of your time by yourself - get social and stay social (playing interactive games - bridge, chess, or charades, for example - will help you to exercise your social 'muscles' along with your intellectual ones).
Receiving a dementia diagnosis is frightening, but there is help out there. It may be possible to live well for years after a diagnosis.
We have compiled a list of St. Tammany Parish Library resources and external websites that have more information about living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Please contact your nearest St. Tammany Parish Library reference librarian, opens a new window if you need help getting any of the items on this list: