06 Causes of dementia
What causes dementia?
Although dementia is typically associated with age, dementia is not a normal part of ageing. There are many different types of dementia, and each can be caused by a variety of different factors. The particular reason that causes someone to develop dementia is still unknown, but lifestyle is thought to have a significant role in the risk of developing dementia.
Lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy diet, participating in regular exercise and avoiding smoking will help reduce the risk of serious conditions such as stroke, heart disease and cancer – all of which contribute to increased risk of developing dementia.
All dementias are caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain, but certain types of dementias have more specific causes than others.
Vascular dementia – when bloodflow to the brain is restricted by an obstruction in the blood vessels, the brain doesn’t receive sufficient oxygen for the cells to respire effectively. Without sufficient oxygen, the cells in the brain will die, which disrupts the communication of information around the brain and body and causes symptoms of dementia to develop.
Diseases – dementias caused by other diseases account for approximately 5% of dementia diagnoses in the UK. Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, HIV, progressive supranuclear palsy, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and learning disabilities all contribute to the development of dementia for those living with the condition.
Injury – medical and scientific research for trauma-related dementias is still in its early stages at the moment, but there is some initial evidence to suggest that some types of traumatic brain injury – particularly if repetitive (such as those received by sports players) have been linked to the development of dementia in later life.
Reversible factors – some dementias can be caused by underlying causes including vitamin deficiencies, thyroid abnormalities and mental health conditions such as depression.