There has been much discussion regarding early onset dementia since the recent news that basketball coach Pat Summit was recently diagnosed with the condition. Early dementia is a progressive condition affecting ones mental acuity.  

Dementia is a general term that refers to a decline in cognitive function so extensive that it interferes with daily life and activities. This loss in the ability to think, remember, and reason is not a disease itself, but a group of symptoms that often accompanies a disease or condition.

Many conditions and diseases cause dementia. Two of the most common causes of dementia in older people are Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia, which is caused by a series of strokes or changes in the brain’s blood supply.

Other conditions that cause memory loss or dementia include:

  • medication side effects
  • chronic alcoholism
  • certain tumors and infections in the brain
  • blood clots in the brain
  • vitamin B12 deficiency
  • dehydration
  • high fever
  • some thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders

Many of these conditions are temporary and reversible, but they can be serious and should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible.

Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, can make a person more forgetful and can be mistaken for dementia. Someone may feel sad, lonely, worried, or bored when facing retirement or coping with the death of a spouse, relative, or friend. Adapting to these changes leaves some people feeling confused or forgetful. Supportive friends and family or professional help from a doctor or counselor can help older adults adjust to big changes.

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