June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and throughout the month we’ll be sharing new blogs and information about dementia, Alzheimer’s, brain health, and what you can do to help protect your brain.
First, what are the causes and symptoms of dementia?
The characteristic symptoms of dementia are difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills. Dementia has several causes, including:
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. The hallmark pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease are the accumulation of the protein beta-amyloid (plaques) outside neurons and twisted strands of the protein tau (tangles) inside neurons in the brain. These changes are accompanied by the death of neurons and damage to brain tissue.
People with dementia whose brains show evidence of cerebrovascular disease are said to have vascular dementia. This occurs most commonly from blood vessel blockage, often from a stroke, bleeding in the brain or other damage leading to areas of dead tissue. The location, number and size of the brain injuries determine whether dementia will result and how the individual’s thinking and physical functioning will be affected.
Lewy body disease
Lewy bodies are abnormal aggregations (or clumps) of the protein alpha-synuclein in neurons. When they develop in a part of the brain called the cortex, dementia can result.
With Parkinson’s, clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein appear in an area deep in the brain called the substantia nigra and, as the disease progresses, can also accumulate in the cortex of the brain. These clumps are thought to cause degeneration of the nerve cells that produce dopamine. Dementia may result.