After experiencing a personal loss to dementia in early 2021, I really want to raise awareness about Dementia and some ways to keep our brains healthy. This is extremely important considering that research shows up to 40% of Dementia cases are preventable. Also I’m mentioning this on a psychology podcast because Dementia causes severe cognitive decline in people, so it’s of interest to us from a cognitive psychology and clinical psychology viewpoint.
This episode has been sponsored by Cognitive Psychology: A Guide To Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience and Neuropsychology Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia isn’t a single thing.
Instead, it’s an umbrella term for a wide range of conditions that we’ll look at later. This is similar to the umbrella term we all know, Anxiety as anxiety can be broken down into Phobias, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and more.
Furthermore, dementia impacts a lot of functions like speech, thinking patterns and memory. As well as in terms of the neurological damage, dementia attacks the brain and eventually kills the brain cells of a person.
Interestingly enough, this can leave the brain around 140g lighter than a healthy brain.
Personally, as much as I want to draw on my own experience, I’m not comfortable sharing that so openly. But I do want to say how scary this condition is because you basically watch one of your loved ones slipping away until they only become a shell for someone (who isn’t your loved one) to be there.
Dementia isn’t a condition that we should leave because it only affects the older people in
society because it can affect people in their early 50s too.
Causes and Types of Dementia:
As the main audience for this podcast are psychology students and psychology professionals, I guess this should come as no surprise that dementia does not have one cause, it has many.
Since it can be caused by a number of brain diseases and whilst Alzheimer’s is the most common disease, it is far from the only one. And each one has its own early warning signs to watch out for.
Therefore, for the rest of the podcast episode, you’re going to hear about some of the types of dementia and what their early warning signs are.
With this being the most common dementia disease with 50% to 75% of dementia suffers having this condition, dementia scientists know a lot about it. Meaning we know Alzheimer’s develops due to a strange build-up of proteins in certain parts of the brain. For example, the brain areas that are responsible for memory and spatial navigation. Then over time this strange build up spreads to other areas of the brain. Leading to the sufferer developing more severe symptoms.
In terms of early warning signs, here are some:
· Getting lost
· Getting confused by the time of day or the date
· Regularly forgetting names, events and faces
And it’s that regularly that is important because we all forget names, faces and events from time to time, it’s normal. But it’s when it happens regularly that we should at least be warn something could be wrong.
This is another one that I hear about quite often and this occurs when blood flow is reduced to the brain, meaning the brain cells don’t are enough oxygen and nutrients. Leading to the brain cells to die.
It’s this damage that is called Vascular dementia.
However, one of the problems with this condition is because the reduction of blood can happen to any part of the brain, it can affect everyone in different ways.
This only adds to problems for researchers because you cannot treat people with this condition as a uniform group in your samples. And as psychology people, I know we all face struggles with this problem. For example, just because you use university psychology students in your study, it doesn’t mean you can treat them all the same. Especially when you start to consider their cultural experiences, attitudes, sexualities, genders and more.
Yet some warning signs are:
· Changes in personality
· Slower thinking
· Disorientation and difficulty walking
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Moving onto our penultimate type of dementia, this is where things start to get really interesting because we’re now talking about the types I’ve never heard of before.
Therefore, Lewy Bodies are small chunks of protein that develop inside the nerve cells in the parts of the brain responsible for thinking, movement and memory. As a result, Lewy Bodies disrupt the nerve signals in the cells and over time they cause the nerve cells to die.
The warning signs are:
· Visual hallucinations and vivid dreams
· Changes in alertness and confusion
· Stiffness, trembling and difficulty walking
Personally I think this is a very scary form of dementia to think about because… well I’ll just tell you about it.
Unlike other forms of dementia, this disease doesn’t attack cells pre se. Instead it makes the front part of the brain smaller, which as we know from Biological Psychology is responsible for our emotions, personality, higher-order reasoning and more.
All in all this is the part of the brain that makes us, us.
Meaning when this part of the brain shrinks and proteins build up in this area, it causes a person’s personality to change in a number of ways.
Here are the early warning signs:
· Changes in diet or overeating
· Lack of personal awareness
· Lack of understanding, empathy or social awareness
Overall there are a lot of different types of dementia but I hope after reading or listening to this podcast episode, you have a better understanding of dementia. It’s a horrible, awful disease but like everything if we keep researching it and becoming more aware of it. Then hopefully we can do something about dementia in the future.
We’ve already come a long way in our understanding, but we are nowhere near done so I hope if anything, this podcast has given you a bit more awareness about this awful, brutal disease.
On our next dementia focused episode, you’ll hear about new ways to keep your brain healthy and hopefully prevent dementia.
Also you might want to check out my Cognitive Psychology because it looks at Semantic Dementia.
If you want to learn more and support the podcast, please check out:
Cognitive Psychology Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day!
What Is Dementia and Types of Dementia Reference:
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