Health care - Learning about dementia - Causes and risk factors related to dementia

Although some types of dementia can be connected to family history, external factors in the environment, or internal factors within a person, currently the causes of some types of dementia are unknown. Scientists however, do think that it could be the result of multiple factors both internal and external to the person. There are certain risk factors that can place someone at higher risk. It is important to understand these risk factors to help reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Frequently asked questions

Is dementia just a part of normal aging? CLICK FOR ANSWER

No. Dementia is more than 'being forgetful' from time to time. Dementia is more common in people over 65 years of age, but it is not a part of normal aging. If memory loss is out of the ordinary for you or people in your age group, and is interfering with your daily living, you should consider speaking with your doctor.

Source: The information above comes from Alzheimer Society of Canada. (2003). Shared experiences: suggestions for those with Alzheimer disease. Toronto, Canada: Alzheimer Society of Canada.

What causes Alzheimer's disease? CLICK FOR ANSWER

There are many different types of dementia and they all have different causes (physical changes in different parts of the brain). Researchers believe that Alzheimer's disease is caused by a buildup of protein in the brain. However, they also believe that there is no single cause; both internal and external factors may also play a role in developing dementia. Researchers are only now beginning to understand some of the reasons for dementia, but they do not understand why some people are affected by the physical changes in the brain and others are not. Research is ongoing to better understand the reasons for dementia and to find a cure.

Source: The information above comes from Alzheimer Society of Canada. (2009, March). Causes of dementia: Introduction. Retrieved October 14, 2011.

Is there a cure for dementia? CLICK FOR ANSWER

Currently there is no cure for dementia; however, you can decrease your risk of getting certain types of dementia (i.e., Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia) through changes in your lifestyle.

How can people decrease their risk of getting dementia? CLICK FOR ANSWER

Some risk factors associated with dementia are uncontrollable (e.g., age, family history, genetics, gender) while other risk factors can be controlled by you. Risk factors that you can control include not smoking, managing depression, cholesterol levels, blood-pressure, and blood-sugar, controlling your weight and eating a healthy diet, having regular hearing checks, reducing alcohol consumption, engaging in regular physical exercise, social activities, and activities that challenge your brain.

Source: The information above comes from Alzheimer Society of Canada. (2009, May). Alzheimer's disease: Causes of Alzheimer's disease – Alzheimer's disease and risk factors. Retrieved, November 23, 2011.

If I have dementia does this mean my children and grandchildren will have it too? CLICK FOR ANSWER

Most people have a form of dementia that is not hereditary; however, there is a rare form of dementia (Familial Alzheimer’s Disease) that is passed directly from one generation to another. Very few people have this form of dementia. Although it is important for your clinician to know of the history of dementia in your family for diagnostic purposes, having a family member, or more than one family member, with dementia does not mean that Familial Alzheimer’s Disease runs in your family.

Source: The information above comes from Alzheimer Society of Canada. (2003). Shared experiences: suggestions for those with Alzheimer disease. Toronto, Canada: Alzheimer Society of Canada.

I have not had a very healthy active lifestyle, is that why I have dementia? CLICK FOR ANSWER

Although more evidence in the research supports healthy minds and bodies reduce the risk of dementia, you cannot change the past…you can however focus on moving forward knowing that maintaining a healthy body and mind will provide you with good quality of life. You can take charge of your life now and make healthier choices. Be more physically fit, eat healthily by including fresh fruits, vegetables and fish in your diet, reduce your stress through deep breathing and meditation, maintain a low blood pressure and cholesterol level and stay socially active.