The terms “dementia” refers to a disease in which the nerve cells in the brain are not able to connect to one another and start to die off. This results in a loss of memory and eventually other brain functions, like the brain’s ability to tell your kidneys to work or your body to breath, which leads to death. When you reach this point memory training is of no use to you and using memory systems to improve your memory are going to have little impact.

Symptoms of dementia include the loss of ability to organize thoughts, make decisions, and make plans (executive dysfunction). It also leads to the inability to recognize people and objects (agnosia), including family and friends. The person loses their ability to communicate – first forgetting words; then the ability to put words together to form understandable sentences – although they can still understand most of what is being said; followed by the inability to speak at all; then they are not longer able to understand anything they see or hear. Eventually the body will begin to shut down because the brain is not able to send signals to other parts of the body to continue to work.

While some form of memory decline is considered part of the aging process, dementia is different from the common age-related memory impairments because of its severity and the range of symptoms. With dementia all parts of the brain are involved and disintegrating. For example: A person with normal aging memory loss may forget to set out the recycling bin on Wednesday; a person with a mild form of impairment may forget the recycling bin and other usual chores on Wednesday; a person with full-blown dementia may not even know it is Wednesday, or even name the other days of the week. There will come a time when their body will not able to perform routine functions, like turning the handle on a door.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which accounts for approximately 50%-75% of dementia cases. It starts by sporadic memory loss and progresses to loss of speech and judgment. Eventually all memory is gone.

Scientists are still not certain that any one single thing brings on dementia. There are a number of things they have found that contribute, including:

  • Genetics – abnormalities in a protein in the brain called apolipoprotein E have been found to be genetic factors.
  • Strokes – approximately 20% of dementia cases are caused by a stroke. Whether by a single stroke where a clot or hemorrhage can cut off the blood supply to the brain; or by a series of strokes (multi-infarction) that destroys brain function.
  • High-cholesterol – causes blockages to the arteries and veins that restrict blood flow to the brain.
  • Diabetes and metabolic diseases, illness, infection, head injury, drugs and nutritional deficiencies

Dementia starts of with simple and insignificant memory lapses, at that point the person is still able to recall recent events. Since memory loss and difficulty in communicating are part of the symptoms, people with dementia tend to withdraw from social activity and interaction as their symptoms get worse. They are aware there is a problem, but not able to understand what the problem is and feel awkward. Forgetting the names of family members and the loss of total ability to speak occurs toward the middle to the end of they disease, and they eventually forget how to do such basic functions as swallowing food.

Dementia can not be reversed, nor stopped, but progress can be slowed down through medication, change in diet and exercise, and the use of brain games that stimulate the brain to make new connections. With dementia that is caused by vascular problems, drugs are used to control some symptoms and treat risk factors like strokes, diabetes and high blood pressure.

I am often asked if my memory training system will help someone with dementia to improve their memory and my sad answer is ‘no’. Yet, I we can do things to slow the onset of dementia

This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion , and memory keynote speaker. I am very interested in all phases of memory and memory loss, including dementia, and follow closely any advances in research so I can bring them to you.




Discovery Fit & Health – What are the Common Causes of Dementia?