Mild Dementia: Everything You Need To Know

Mild dementia is a mysterious condition affecting the brain without causing noticeable behavioural changes. It is often called dementia’s invisible illness because it doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms. There are cases where people don’t know they have mild dementia until it’s too late. But for those that notice some symptoms, 75% of them will experience a significant decline in their quality of life.

This article explains what mild dementia is and what options you have.

What Exactly is Mild Dementia, And How Can One Tell If They Have It?

Mild dementia is a condition that may not have as severe an impact on you as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. It is characterized by memory problems and difficulty thinking, although it has less influence on your life.

It’s a form of dementia that can go undetected for years. Although the symptoms are not severe enough to interfere with daily life, the person will notice some significant changes in cognition and behaviour. 

But, are Alzheimer’s and mild dementia different?

Differentiating Alzheimer’s Disease from Mild Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and mild dementia are two subtypes of dementia. AD is the most frequent form, while mild dementia is less common.
Memory loss, confusion, and mood swings are mild dementia’s hallmarks, and unlike Alzheimer’s, it does not produce any significant physical or cognitive impairment.

What Causes Mild Dementia?

Age, genetics, and certain medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and brain injuries, among other things, can all contribute to the development of mild dementia.
Hands holding brain with puzzle paper cutout representing mild dementia

Mild Dementia vs. MCI

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that impairs memory and other cognitive skills but does not cause significant impairment or severe dementia.

It is the most common form of dementia among adults under 50. 

Some head traumas or illnesses, such as HIV or syphilis, can cause it. Depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder might also contribute to it.

Usually, mild cognitive impairment does not manifest symptoms until several years after the occurrence. It can, however, develop into more severe illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.

Senior man with his healthcare professional, both smiling

What Tests Can Diagnose Mild Dementia?

Specialists can determine if you have mild dementia by performing cognitive or physical tests

Cognitive Tests

Cognitive testing for mild dementia falls into four categories:

  • Memory tests can aid in identifying memory issues.
  • Attention tests assess the patient’s ability to focus and pay attention.
  • Language tests can evaluate a person’s ability to use words and sentences correctly.
  • Visuospatial tests can examine a person’s ability to process visual information, such as shapes or objects.

Physical Tests

Physical examinations for mild dementia include assessments of balance and coordination. These tests can help determine if the person has gait or balance issues. 

Other physical examinations include vision tests to detect vision impairments, hearing assessments to see how well a person hears sounds in a noisy setting, and speech tests to determine how effectively individuals communicate in everyday situations.

Can You Prevent Mild Dementia?

There is no clear-cut solution to prevent mild dementia from taking over one’s life. But to reduce your risk of developing this condition, you should focus on getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.

You should also avoid alcohol or drugs and smoking cigarettes or marijuana.

Some people feel that particular meals can assist in alleviating the symptoms of mild dementia. The diet of certain foods, such as walnuts, broccoli, spinach, and eggs, has been found to lower the risk of mild dementia.

Other foods, such as quinoa, beans, turkey, and salmon, have also been reported to help with minor memory loss.

Risk Factors

Dementia can occur for several reasons. Some factors, such as age, are unchangeable. You can handle others to mitigate your risk.

Risk Factors You Can’t Change

  • Age. The risk rises with age, especially after 65. However, dementia is not a natural aspect of aging and can occur in younger people.
  • Family History. You are more at risk of dementia if you have a family history of the disease. Although many individuals with a family history never experience symptoms, many others do. There are tests available to identify if you have specific genetic mutations.
  • Down Syndrome. Many people with Down syndrome get early-onset Alzheimer’s disease by middle age.

stylish senior woman refusing alcohol for better health

Risk Factors You Can Change

The following dementia risk factors may be under your control:

  • Diet and Exercise. According to research, a lack of exercise raises the risk of dementia. While there’s no specific diet to minimize dementia risk, research shows that those who consume an unhealthy diet have a higher incidence of dementia than those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Excessive Alcohol Use. Long-term studies have shown that heavy alcohol use can change brain chemistry. Several significant research and reviews indicated that alcohol use disorders were associated with an increased risk of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia.
  • Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Some risk factors include excessive blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, fat buildup in artery walls (atherosclerosis), and obesity.
  • Depression. Although not fully understood, late-life depression can indicate the onset of dementia.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes can increase your risk of dementia, especially if you manage it poorly.
  • Smoking. It may raise your risk of developing dementia and blood vessel problems.
  • Sleep Disturbances. People who suffer from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders may be at a higher risk of developing dementia.
  • Deficiencies in vitamins and nutrients. Low vitamin D, B-6, B-12, and folate levels can raise your risk of dementia.

 

Who Can Diagnose Mild Dementia?

For those experiencing changes in their thinking, movement, or behaviour, the first step is frequently to visit their primary care physician. To diagnose dementia, however, patients often turn to neurologists, medical professionals who focus on conditions of the brain and neurological system. 

Geriatric psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and geriatricians are also qualified to diagnose dementia.

Your physician can help you find a specialist.

Final Words

You may be able to delay the onset of dementia by identifying the earliest symptoms of dementia as they occur. Though most cases of dementia are degenerative, some may be reversible, and treatable underlying deficits or illnesses may cause dementia-like diseases. The more you are aware of these stages, the faster you will be able to react and seek help, whether for yourself or a loved one.

Source Nia.nih.gov MayoClinic Dementia.org
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