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Losing your cognitive function or watching someone you care about decline mentally, is devastating. Although Alzheimer’s Disease is the most well-known form of dementia, there are also other causes.

Years ago, the term "senility" was often used to describe an older adult who showed signs of dementia. But as doctors discovered more about dementia, they learned it has several different causes and is not an inevitable part of aging.

Understanding The Basics Of Dementia

Regardless of the cause, if a patient is considered to have dementia, they have some common symptoms. Dementia involves a loss of cognitive functioning and may include a decrease in the ability to reason, think and remember. People with dementia may also display changes in their behavior and personality.

Although one of the most common symptoms of dementia is memory loss, there are also additional symptoms. In fact, for doctors to make a diagnosis of dementia, a patient must have two or more mental functions impaired. For instance, patients may present with memory problems and language impairment.

To understand the basics of dementia, it is also helpful to learn the risk factors for the condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers have been able to identify certain risk factors for dementia. Advanced age appears to be one of the biggest risks for developing any type of dementia. People over the age of 65 are at the greatest risk. But it’s also important to understand that dementia is not part of the normal aging process.

People with a family history of having dementia are also at an increased risk. Having hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol levels increases your risk of a couple of types of dementia including vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Certain lifestyle choices can also increase your chances of developing dementia. For instance, people who drink large amounts of alcohol, smoke and are obese increase their risk of dementia.

The Difference Between Alzheimer’s And Other Types Of Dementia

When you think about dementia, the first condition that may come to mind is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are also several other types.

There are both similarities and differences between the different types of dementia. For example, many types of dementia cause similar symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion. In fact, similarities may make it difficult for doctors to confirm a cause of dementia at first.

One of the key differences between types of dementia is the cause. For example, Alzheimer’s may be caused by a buildup of plaque on the brain, but additional research is needed to definitively state a cause. Other forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia, have a clearer cause.

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia and occurs due to damage from a stroke. When bleeding in the brain leads to a stroke, it can cause brain damage. That damage may include symptoms of dementia including loss of motivation, memory difficulties and impaired judgment.

Certain progressive diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s may also eventually cause dementia. In some cases, a brain injury can lead to symptoms of dementia. Usually, dementia due to brain trauma occurs after repeated head injuries that cause concussions. Dementia from head trauma is most common is people who participate in certain contact sports, such as football and boxing. 

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