Does dementia treatment cure the condition? Unfortunately, it doesn’t but the appropriate modalities will help improve a person’s quality of life.
According to Malaysia’s National Health and Morbidity Survey 2018, the prevalence of dementia is 8.5% among people aged 60 years and above. The survey also finds that dementia is more common among females and people living in rural areas, with low-income levels, and without formal education.
Here are the different stages of the syndrome and steps you can take to live worry-free.
What are the Possible Causes of Dementia?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states that the syndrome onsets in the brain. “A chronic Deficiency of the Heart, Kidney, and Spleen, Blood and Qi Stasis, and turbid phlegm affecting the mind can aggravate one’s risk of dementia,” explains Eu Yan Sang Physician Kong Teck Chuan.
Separately, Alzheimer’s disease is regarded as the most common cause of dementia in clinical medicine. It stems from an unusual build-up of proteins in the brain, which are tau proteins, and around the cells, which are amyloid plaques. These disrupt the transmission of neurochemicals between brain cells, accelerating the organ’s death. The syndrome can also be categorised as vascular, frontotemporal, or Lewy body dementia.
Vascular dementia relates to a stroke or similar disorders that reduce blood flow to the brain. Likewise, diabetes or high cholesterol, or high blood pressure can also increase a person’s risk of the syndrome. Frontotemporal dementia occurs in people below 60 and is associated with abnormal tau and TDP-43 proteins. Lewy body dementia happens if there are too many alpha-synuclein proteins – also called Lewy bodies – in the body.
Sometimes, two types of dementia can be present in the brain simultaneously. People with the syndrome may also have reversible, underlying problems such as increased blood pressure in the brain, a vitamin deficiency or thyroid hormone imbalance. It can also arise as a temporary side effect of medication use.
Understanding the 3 Stages of Dementia
People often overlook early-stage dementia because it comes about gradually. During this stage, a person may experience three notable symptoms. These are:
- Frequently losing track of time
- Getting lost in locations in usually familiar locations
When the condition progresses to the middle stage, a person’s symptoms will worsen and may include:
- Confusion, even while being at home
- A struggle to communicate
- Requiring personal care assistance
- Being unable to recollect people’s names and recent events
- Behavioural changes like wandering and repeatedly asking the same questions
Late-stage dementia, meanwhile, describes an inactive person who needs to depend wholly on another. In addition, memory disturbances will become severe and physical symptoms more apparent. For instance, the affected person may react with aggression, not be able to walk, lose complete awareness of time and place, and find it hard to recognise the faces of friends and relatives.
Dementia Treatment Options
A neurologist – a specialist who focuses on brain and nervous system disorders – is the most qualified to diagnose dementia. Geriatric psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and geriatricians too, can identify the syndrome effectively.
Firstly, these healthcare providers will review a person’s medical history and genetic predisposition to dementia. They may also order diagnostic procedures like a psychiatric evaluation, brain scans or blood, genetic, and cognitive and behavioural tests.
A 180-degree lifestyle flip
Healthy habits can clear cholesterol build-up, help a person stay at a healthy weight, and maintain normal blood pressure and sugar levels. They’ll also fuel the brain with oxygen and the nutrients needed to function optimally. A few lifestyle modifications can be considered, such as:
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Being socially active
- Consuming a Mediterranean diet
- Engaging in mentally-stimulating activities
A little help from prescription pharmaceuticals
Multiple medications are approved for dementia treatment. These can be anti-amyloid antibodies, cholinesterase inhibitors, and NMDA receptor antagonists.
Cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA receptor antagonists influence chemical processes in the brain. Hence, these can improve or stabilise memory functions in people with dementia. An anti-amyloid antibody destroys amyloid proteins that can accumulate as plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
A combination of physical therapy and natural ingredients
Acupuncture can promote a better flow of blood and qi (vital life force) and improve cognitive functions. A few of the acupressure points that are effective include bai hui (GV20, 百会), he gu (LI4, 合谷) and tai chong (LR3, 太沖).
Early intervention is integral to helping people with dementia live memorably. By acting fast, you can also detect and prevent further progression of underlying conditions that may cause cognitive impairment. Speaking to a licensed TCM practitioner may also help a person distinguish between alternative dementia treatment options suitable for their body constitutions.
- National Health and Morbidity Survey 2018: Elderly Health. 2018. Volume Two: Elderly Health Findings. [online] [Accessed 3 June 2022]
- UM Specialist Centre. The Most Common Cause of Dementia: Alzheimer’s Disease. [online] [Accessed 3 June 2022]
- National Institute on Aging. What is Dementia? Symptoms, Types, and Diagnosis. [online] [Accessed 3 June 2022]
- Cleveland Clinic. Dementia. [online] [Accessed 3 June 2022]
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