What Causes Dementia?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Because the general media commonly interchanges the terms "Alzheimer's" and "dementia", there is much confusion about the definition of each and the difference between the two. As such, I like to offer a clarifying viewpoint on a regular basis.

Alzheimer's is a disease. We don't completely understand it but the development of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain seem to play a role.

Dementia is a descriptive term for the symptoms caused by disorders that impair cognition. Specifically, if memory and at least one other realm of cognition (judgment, executive function, verbal fluency, etc.) decline to the point where they interfere with daily life, then the condition is dementia.

A key point is that there are many causes of dementia; Alzheimer's is merely one of them. Vascuclar disease, Parkinson's disease, and Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus and others are also on the list. The conditions and disorders that cause memory loss are worth learning about.

The distinction between memory loss and dementia, and the causes of each are well developed in a recent article on examiner.com by Patricia Grace. This perspective and other good views are presented regularly at the blog: AgingwithGrace.net.

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