Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities.
Many things can cause dementia. It happens when the parts of our brain cells used for learning, memory, decision making, and language are damaged or diseased. You might also hear it called a major neurocognitive disorder. As we mentioned, Dementia isn’t a disease. Instead, it’s a group of symptoms caused by other conditions.
Studies show that about 5%-8% of adults over age 65 have some form of dementia. This percentage doubles every 5 years after 65. As many as half of people in their 80s have some dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Between 60%-80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. But there are as many as 50 other causes of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects elderly people, it is not a part of normal aging.
Modern medicine has not yet found potential treatments for Dementia. Dementia symptoms may improve with treatment. But many of the diseases that cause dementia aren’t curable.
The most common risk factors of dementia include:
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and some types of multiple sclerosis. These diseases get worse over time.
- Vascular disorders. These conditions affect the blood pressure and circulation in your brain.
- Traumatic brain injuries caused by a car accident, concussions, etc.
- Infections of the central nervous system including meningitis, HIV, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Alcohol or drug use abuse.
- Certain types of hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain
Certain physical and lifestyle risk factors that can put you at higher risk of having dementia, including:
- Genetic – Dementia in your family.
- Illnesses including diabetes, Down syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and sleep apnea.
- Stress and depression.
- Smoking, heavy alcohol use, poor diet, and lack of exercise
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
- A person with Dementia has problems with thinking and remembering that affect their ability to manage their daily life. These are some signs to watch for:
- Short-term memory problems or memory loss like forgetting where you put something or asking the same question over and over
- Communication problems like not being able to come up with a word.
- Getting lost.
- Having trouble with complex but familiar tasks, like paying bills or cooking foods.
- Personality changes, like depression, anxiety, paranoia, and mood swings.
The 7 Stages of Dementia
Usually, dementia goes through these 7 stages. But it may differ depending on the part of the brain that’s affected.
- No cognitive impairment – Someone at this stage will show no symptoms, but tests may show a problem.
- Very moderate decline – You may notice moderate changes in behavior, but your loved one will still be independent.
- Moderate decline – You’ll notice more changes in their thinking and rationalizing. They may have struggle making plans, and they may repeat themselves a lot. They may also have a hard time remembering recent events.
- Steady decline – They’ll have more problems with making plans and remembering recent events. They may have a hard time with traveling and handling money.
- Moderately steady decline – One may not remember their phone number or their grandchildren’s names. They may be confused about the time of day or day of the week. At this point, they’ll need assistance with some basic day-to-day functions, such as picking out clothes to wear.
- Severe decline – One begin to forget the name of their spouse. They’ll need help going to the restroom and eating. You may also see changes in their personality and emotions.
- Very severe decline – One can no longer speak their thoughts. They can’t walk and will spend most of their time in bed.
The Ayurvedic approach
Ayurveda is based on a holistic view of treatment which promotes and supports equilibrium in different aspects of human life: the body, mind, and soul.
Ayurveda views Dementia as a result of imbalance and disturbance of the three doshas of the body – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. And Vata imbalance has a considerable role in Dementia. Ayurveda advocates the importance of a balanced diet for healthy brain functioning. An active and stress-free lifestyle helps in maintaining a sharp memory even as you age.
Here are some herbs and spices that may help you improve your brain health, and some of them may be already sitting in your fridge! Several of these herbs and spices have been studied for their effects on Alzheimer’s disease, while others have been tested for their overall effects on cognition (i.e. the mental action or process involved in thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering).
The king of Ayurvedic spices – turmeric is a spice long used in Ayurveda. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (two factors that may benefit brain health and overall health).
Clinical study suggests that turmeric may boost brain health and stave off Alzheimer’s disease by clearing the brain of beta-amyloid (a protein fragment). The buildup of beta-amyloid is known to form Alzheimer’s-related brain plaques. Also, turmeric may shield brain health by inhibiting the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. To increase your intake of turmeric, try adding it to your foods.
Supplementing with ashwagandha may be an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life. But ashwagandha is mostly known to improve learning and memory. Ashwagandha has been seen to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain, which are correlated with improved memory, brain function, and intelligence. Ayurveda recommends it as a brain booster and a remedy for forgetfulness.
Ginkgo Biloba is perhaps the best-known herb used to treat conditions such as cerebral vascular insufficiency, memory loss, mood disturbances, cognitive disorders, and depression, with many studies pointing to its efficiency in treating dementia. The herb’s actions result in improved blood flow properties to the brain as well as promoting antioxidant activity. It has demonstrated its effectiveness and is often recommended for during the early stages of Alzheimer’s when it is said to prevent the onset of the condition.
Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, ginseng shows promise for preventing and treating many of the most severe neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, brain ischemia, and stroke. They also stimulate the release of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with learning and memory.
Dementia may not yet be curable, but there are several ways to reduce the risk and fight some of the symptoms. Changes in diet, regular body cleansing, healthy lifestyle choices, and paying attention to some of the herbs and spices we have outlined above are a great start. While some people with dementia can live independently at home or with support from a relative or friend, others may need to go into a care home. If you have a loved one and are struggling with the stress of dementia, be sure to try out some of our top herbs and spices to help prevent dementia.