July 23, 2024
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Age Itself Is Not a Direct Cause of Dementia

Dementia is the general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, speak or make decisions, which are severe enough to interfere with everyday activities. An abundance of research has shown that many risk factors play a role in dementia. While some risk factors, like age and family history, are unalterable, others, like chronic illnesses, behaviors, and habits can be changed to reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline. The risk of dementia increases with age, but age itself is not a direct cause of dementia.

There is strong evidence that links brain health to heart health. Logically, this makes sense, as the brain is nourished by one of the richest networks of blood vessels in the body, and the heart is solely responsible for pumping blood to the brain. Many common conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart failure, irregular heartbeat and diabetes, have strong negative impacts on the heart. Adequate control of these conditions helps maintain heart health, which directly correlates with increased brain health.

People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those without diabetes. However, diabetes can impact the whole body, not just the heart. Diabetes occurs when the body lacks sufficient insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces, which is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is associated with many diseases besides diabetes, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, liver disease, and sleep apnea.

With insulin resistance, muscle, fat, liver and brain cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Insulin resistance has been shown in studies to damage the brain’s cognitive system and lead to dementia. Decreased responsiveness to insulin in the brain can cause many of the neural and cognitive abnormalities of dementia. Classically, diabetes is characterized as Type I or Type II. Dementia shares enough characteristics with insulin resistant diabetes, so that dementia has become known as Type III diabetes.

At the Memory Center, we are acutely aware of the connection between many conditions and dementia. We aim to do everything in our power to prevent dementia via tight control of chronic medical conditions that are associated with the development of dementia. Our interdisciplinary team of internal medicine, neurology, and psychiatry physicians, along with highly-trained technicians and revolutionary diagnostic and treatment equipment, strive to give you the best care imaginable. Call 201-947-4777 to schedule a visit today.

By Dr. Jeff Shenfeld from The Memory Center

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