Dementia is a general term used for progressive mental or cognitive decline
Dementia is a general term used for progressive mental or cognitive decline. Learn about the 7 stages of the disease

Dementia is a general term used for progressive mental or cognitive decline that has affected 47 million people globally; by 2050, this number is expected to increase to an estimated 131 million people.

Out of the various diseases that have dementia as one of their characteristics, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. The progression of dementia (in Alzheimer’s disease) has been divided into seven stages as per the ‘Global Deterioration Scale (GDS)’ of primary degenerative dementia prepared by Dr. Riesberg and his team.

Stage 1 (No cognitive decline)

The imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain might show some changes but the patient does not exhibit any of the cognitive signs and symptoms. 

Stage 2 (Very mild cognitive decline)

  • The patient starts forgetting words or misplacing objects; this may go unnoticed by people around them. 
  • It should be remembered that this stage might also occur due to the normal aging process.

Stage 3 (Mild cognitive decline)

  • The patient suffers from short-term memory loss—forgetting what they just read and the names of new acquaintances. 
  • They can’t make plans or organize things as earlier.
  • They might frequently start misplacing and losing things.

Stage 4 (Moderate cognitive decline)

  • The patient starts to lose interest in the things that they used to enjoy and avoids meeting people and, attending social events.
  • Calculating simple expenses and adding up the financial bills becomes difficult.
  • They become disoriented to time and place—they forget or figure out the present time, date and place
  • The signs and symptoms of cognitive decline become clear to everyone around the patient. 
  • Clinical diagnosis of dementia is most likely to be made at this stage.

Stage 5 (Moderately severe cognitive decline)

  • The patient experiences major memory disturbances such as forgetting their phone number and address. 
  • They may forget how to bath and face trouble while choosing and wearing clothes.

Stage 6 (Severe cognitive decline): 

  • The patient loses his memory as much as that they fail to remember the names of closed ones and might mistake one person for another.
  • They suffer from severe confusion and anxiety.
  • As dementia worsens, they might need help to go to the bathroom.

Stage 7 (Very severe cognitive decline): 

  • This is the final stage or end-stage of dementia. 
  • The patient becomes completely dependent on other patients to carry even basic activities like eating, drinking, walking, and sitting. 
  • There is loss of bladder and bowel control.
  • Their ability to communicate is hampered drastically as they speak too little struggling with words. 

It should be noted that the speed of progression through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease differs amongst patients. Not all patients will experience the same changes at each stage and the cognitive decline that occurs may overlap stages.

How is dementia treated?

Treatment of dementia depends on its cause. For example, dementia that has developed due to vitamin deficiency can be treated with vitamin supplements and hence is reversible. Other causes of dementia such as depression, thyroid problems can also be treated. 

For progressive dementias, including Alzheimer's disease, no treatment can halt its progression, and research is still going on to find out the same. But, some medications may temporarily help relieve its symptoms such as memory loss and confusion. These are:

  1. Donepezil (Aricept)
  2. Galantamine (Razadyne)
  3. Rivastigmine (Exelon)
  4. Memantine (Namenda)

Patients should ask their doctor about which medicine can be used at the stage of dementia they are currently in.

Some of the non-drug approaches can be adopted by the patient’s family, friends, or caregivers. This helps improve the quality of life of patients with dementia. Non-drug therapies include:

  • Monitoring the patient’s comfort 
  • Being gentle in arguing or explaining certain facts
  • Learning how to cope with the patient’s agitation
  • Diverting the patient’s attention
  • Creating a calm atmosphere
  • Creating a safe and secure environment (such as Install safety switches throughout the home) 
  • Helping the patient join a dementia support group

Can dementia be prevented?

Some risk factors such as genes and age cannot be avoided. Research suggests that patients with dementia can follow a healthy lifestyle to reduce their risk of dementia. Suggested healthy practices include:

  • Following a healthy diet
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Being physically active
  • Doing mental activities (such as playing chess, solving crosswords) that stimulate cognitive abilities 

SLIDESHOW

Brain Food Pictures: What to Eat to Boost Focus See Slideshow

What is the number one food that fights dementia?

What Is the Number One Food That Fights Dementia
Plant-based foods, such as leafy greens and herbs, are the number one food that fights dementia and promotes brain health

Plant-based foods, such as leafy greens and herbs, are the number one food that fights dementia and promotes brain health. 

Vegetables have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect brain cells from free radical damage and oxidative stress. Here are brain-healthy foods that can protect you against cognitive decline.

22 foods that fight dementia

  1. Leafy greens: Darker greens, such as spinach, kale, and romaine, are rich in antioxidants and vitamin K, both of which are beneficial to the brain. They are best eaten raw for maximum nutritional value.
  2. Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts are high in vitamin K and glucosinolates, both of which have antioxidant properties and fight oxidative stress.
  3. Grapes: Grapes help promote cognitive function by increasing blood and oxygen supply to the brain. Raisins, or dried grapes, are also high in boron, which is a trace element that improves memory, attention, and hand-eye coordination.
  4. Blackcurrants: Blackcurrants are high in anthocyanin, an antioxidant that works similar to medications used to treat mood disorders. According to cognitive tests, blackcurrant drinks can improve attention and mood and reduce mental fatigue.
  5. Berries: All berries are beneficial to brain health, but blueberries are especially beneficial to the brain because they contain flavonoids, which stimulate brain pathways linked to slower cellular aging. Acai and strawberries have similar effects.
  6. Beans: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas contain a combination of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support brain and overall health.
  7. Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, and iron found in all types of fish are thought to aid in cognitive function. Fattier fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, anchovies, and trout, also contain selenium, potassium, B vitamins, and magnesium, all of which help fight against dementia.
  8. Whole grains: Whole grains have their high levels of B vitamins, protein, fiber, and carbohydrates, which provide long-term energy to the brain while also promoting the growth of bacteria in the gut. Quinoa, millet, oats, buckwheat, teff, and sorghum are some excellent whole grain options to consider.
  9. Olive oil: When it comes to foods that help fight dementia, healthy fats are critical. Olive oil is a great cooking oil and salad dressing base, as it is high in brain-healthy nutrients like monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants. 
  10. Nuts: Unsalted nuts are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the brain. Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids, as are pistachios, almonds, and macadamia nuts.
  11. Seeds: Including seeds such as pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and linseeds in your diet can help prevent dementia. These seeds are an excellent snack to have in between meals. The seeds are high in vitamin E and a variety of brain-boosting minerals. Linseeds, in particular, provide the body with plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in cholesterol reduction and inflammation reduction. In addition, they contain chemical compounds that protect blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
  12. Sweet potato: Sweet potatoes are high in minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, and vitamins C and A, all of which are good for the brain. They also help regulate blood sugar levels and have anti-inflammatory properties.
  13. Dark chocolate: Flavanols, an antioxidant found in cocoa powder, aid in improving blood flow to the brain.
  14. Tea: Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, helping with memory, focus, mood, and general cognitive functions. Tea leaves also contain compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier and improve brain health, such as theophylline, theobromine, and epigallocatechin gallate. Green tea contains L-theanine, an active ingredient that improves mood and has a calming effect without causing drowsiness. Certain catechins in tea also have anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties.
  15. Coffee: Coffee contains several bioactive compounds that contribute to overall health, including caffeine, chlorogenic acids (CGA), cafestol, kahweol, and trigonelline. The majority of these are antioxidants that fight free radical damage. CGAs are polyphenol antioxidants that benefit biological pathways such as blood sugar metabolism and help prevent age-related mental decline. According to some studies, regular moderate coffee consumption has been linked to a lower risk of dementia.
  16. Turmeric: Curcumin in turmeric has been reported to increase the availability of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the brain. DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for brain health, and DHA deficiency has been linked to cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.
  17. Saffron: Saffron is high in antioxidants and has long been used in medicine for its neuroprotective properties. While more research is needed, it’s not a bad idea to include this spice in your diet, especially given how delicious it is.
  18. Rosemary: Rosemary is one of the most beneficial herbs for brain health. Rosemary contains carnosic acid, which has antioxidant properties which can fight free radicals and improve cognitive function. In small doses, this herb can improve concentration and slow memory decline.
  19. Sage: Sage has long been used for its brain-boosting properties. The herb has been shown to improve learning and cognition in elderly people suffering from mild to moderate dementia.
  20. Cinnamon: This spice can help break up plaque and reduce inflammation in the brain, which can cause memory problems in people with dementia.
  21. Parsley: Parsley is high in essential nutrients and has been shown to have positive effects on the brain by strengthening brain cell connections and reducing neuronal damage.
  22. Thyme: Thyme contains flavonoids such as apigenin, which is known to improve neuron formation in the brain, as well as a variety of health-promoting nutrients such as vitamins A and C, iron, copper, manganese, and dietary fiber.

What is the MIND diet?

The MIND diet (Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is designed to reduce your risk of cognitive disorders such as dementia. The diet includes:

  • Vegetables, particularly leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables
  • Fresh fruit, particularly berries
  • Walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds
  • Chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and other legumes
  • Whole grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, barley, and farro
  • Fish, particularly wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, halibut, trout, tuna, and mackerel
  • Lean meats such as pasture-raised poultry

The MIND diet allows one glass of wine per day, ideally red wine, which contains more antioxidants. The diet recommends avoiding or limiting sugar, red meat, alcohol, and processed foods.

In addition to eating healthy, getting regular exercise and doing mental exercises can keep your brain cells stimulated and functioning properly.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/4/2022
References
Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Available at: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia

Reisberg B et al. The Global Deterioration Scale for assessment of primary degenerative dementia. Am J Psychiatry. 1982;139(9):1136-1139.

7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-disease-stages#1

Dementia. Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2003174

Brain Foods That May Help Prevent Dementia: https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/ss/slideshow-dementia-foods

What you eat and drink and your brain: https://www.dementia.org.au/sites/default/files/helpsheets/Helpsheet-DementiaQandA07-WhatYouEatAndDrinkAndYourBrain_english.pdf

Foods that Help Fight Dementia: https://www.vnsny.org/article/foods-help-fight-dementia/

Nutrition For Dementia Patients: https://www.dementia.org/best-foods-for-dementia-patients-to-eat