Answers to tough questions about dementia

Through individual consultation and care management, Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator Program helps patients and families get the support they need, including answers to questions such as the ones below. 

Q: What is dementia?
Dementia is a broad term describing a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells which interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type.

Q: What are the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease?
Some risk factors, such as age and genetics, cannot be changed. Researchers continue to explore the impact of other risk factors on a healthy brain and prevention of dementia such as cardiovascular factors, physical fitness and nutrition.

Q: Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?
Because some risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are determined by genetics and age, it may not be possible to completely prevent the disease. However, you can minimize your risk factors by protecting your brain with some of the same strategies that protect your heart – do not smoke; take steps to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within recommended limits; and maintain a healthy weight. Regular physical exercise may help lower the risk of some types of dementia by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

Q: How is it treated?
Treatment of dementia depends on its cause. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure and no treatment that can stop its progression. But there are drug treatments that may slow the progression of or temporarily improve its symptoms. The Memory Care Navigator can assist in recommending nutrition, physical activity and other lifestyle modifications that may assist in maintaining a healthy brain.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association