The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maybe It Isn't Dementia!

People are becoming more concerned about their cognitive health, and that’s good. As our population becomes more elderly, and as we become more exposed to the many toxins of our industrialized communities, dementia is becoming endemic. We should be concerned. However, let’s not over react.  Before you become concerned that you or your loved one has LBD or another non-curable dementia, have it checked out. It could be something as simple as dehydration!

Dehydration. When 80 year old Alice became disoriented, her concerned daughter took her to the doctor, who told Alice she needed to drink more water. With her daughter’s continual encouragement and monitoring, Alice did—and the dementia went away.  Even if dementia is already present, dehydration can make it worse. John’s PDD made him too shaky to handle a cup easily and made swallowing difficult. When these problems were dealt with so that he could get more fluids into his system, his dementia decreased.

 Brain tumors. Some brain tumors can cause dementia symptoms. Often surgery can reverse this. This is why you don’t say, “Oh, well, I’m just getting old and some forgetfulness, etc. is to be expected. If you are feeling like you are having cognitive losses, have it checked out!

Malnutrition. Dr. Rosenthal of Buffalo, NY, reports that 30% of the people who present in his clinic for cognitive impairment show signs of malnourishment.  If the body is so undernourished that it can’t function properly, the brain suffers as well.  A good healthy diet can reverse dementia caused by malnutrition—and slow progressive dementias as well.

Depression. Rob, newly retired from his job of 30 years, felt depressed. His wife, Jody, noticed that his thinking wasn’t as clear and his attention span had greatly decreased. His father had LBD and she was afraid that Rob was developing dementia as well. She convinced him to see his doctor who prescribed therapy to help him over his situational depression. As he began to adapt to his retirement, Rob’s depression lifted and his cognition improved greatly. Jody’s concern was valid. Depression is a major symptom of MCI, especially the type that precedes LBD. However, it is also the greatest cause of curable cognitive impairment.  And so be proactive and find out if this is something that can be treated by life style changes, therapy, drugs or even diet.

Drugs. Anyone dealing with LBD knows how dangerous drugs can be for our loved ones.  However, even if you aren’t at danger for LBD, drugs can decrease things like reaction time, attention and memory. (Think of all those medications with warning not to drive while taking them.)  Remove or change the drugs and the cognition will likely improve.

The bottom line is that when you notice cognitive losses, have them checked out. Don’t just assume it is part of the aging process—or even that you actually are having early symptoms of dementia but there’s nothing you can do to change that.  Some cognitive impairment is reversible. And when it isn’t, when it really is a forerunner of dementia, you can usually slow it down.


  1. Senior citizens with dementia may experience personality changes and behavior problems such as agitation, delusions, and hallucinations.

    Dementia Clinic

    1. True. And especially with LBD, these changes may occur prior to any noticeable cognitive losses. Again, before jumping to the conclusion that it IS an incurable disorder, other causes should be ruled out first.