What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term that describes when the decline in mental ability or cognitive impairment is severe enough to interfere with independent living and daily life. It is not a specific disease, but instead describes a group of symptoms that are associated with decline in memory or skills necessary to function independently. There are many different clinical syndromes or names for dementia with variable presentations and unique disease characteristics. Most types of dementia evolve over time and symptoms worsen over many years. It is important that when individuals experience a decline in cognitive function, they be evaluated by a clinician for reversible causes of memory loss. Such possibly reversible causes of cognitive slowing or loss such as depression, vitamin deficiency, thyroid disorders, or medication adverse effects may be treatable. In cases where the underlying cause of memory loss cannot be treated, memory and cognitive loss may be slowed by treating underlying causes. In vascular dementia, progression of cognitive loss can be slowed by optimizing medical treatment for underlying risk factors such as stroke, vascular disease, or inflammation. For other types of dementia, identifying and addressing risk factors for accelerated loss of cognitive function as well as establishing routine and purpose can help delay loss or slow loss of cognitive function. Dementia is not a normal part of the aging process and whenever concerns arise, they should be evaluated by a clinician. 

Common types of Dementia

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Disorders

Risk Factors for Dementia

  • Older Age
  • Family History and Genetics
  • Low Education
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Unhealthy Diet
  • High Blood Pressure in Midlife
  • High Cholesterol in Midlife
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of Physical Activity
  • Severe Head Injury


Read more about dementia, aging, and risk factors for memory loss:

Healthy Aging

National Institute on Aging

Risk Factors for Dementia