Understanding the Causes of Dementia: The Early Signs

    Dementia is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, with a significant impact on families and communities. It’s a term that describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily life. This article aims to demystify the causes of dementia, offering insight into the early signs and prevention measures in a way that is easily accessible.

    What is Dementia, and What Causes it? 

    Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a general term that encompasses various neurological conditions, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. The causes of dementia can vary, but they all result in damaged nerve cells in the brain, affecting communication between brain cells and impairing function. 

    The path to dementia is multifaceted, with various interlinked factors contributing to the onset and progression of the condition. 

    Let’s delve deeper into each of the factors: 


    Our bodies undergo numerous changes as we age, including in the brain. The risk of developing dementia rises significantly after the age of 65. One of the leading causes of dementia is age-related. Age-related cellular changes, such as increased inflammation, accumulation of oxidative stress, and the reduced ability of cells to repair DNA damage, contribute to the degeneration of neuronal cells in the brain. This natural decline in cognitive function is a significant risk factor for dementia, making ageing the most prominent factor in its development. 

    Genetic Predisposition

    Genetics play a crucial role in the causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia. Specific genes have been identified that can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. For example, the APOE ε4 allele is known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s significantly. 

    AskaDoc: APOE ε4 

    The APOE ε4 allele is a variant of the apolipoprotein E gene associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It is considered the strongest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease in various ethnic groups.

    Familial Alzheimer’s disease, a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s, is linked to mutations in various genes. However, having a family history of dementia does not guarantee an individual will develop the condition, but it does increase the risk compared to the general population. 

    Vascular Conditions

    Vascular dementia results from conditions that impair blood flow to the brain, leading to cognitive decline. This can occur after a stroke blocks an artery in the brain or through small vessel disease that affects the brain’s smaller blood vessels. The lack of adequate blood flow can cause brain cells to be deprived of oxygen and nutrients, leading to their death. Conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart disease, and diabetes can exacerbate the risk of vascular dementia by contributing to the deterioration of the brain’s blood vessels. 

    Lifestyle and Heart Health

    Lifestyle factors have a direct impact on the risk of developing dementia. Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, poor diet, and not engaging in mentally stimulating activities can all contribute to the development of dementia. These factors can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes, all known risk factors for vascular conditions that affect cognitive health. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of dementia. 


    Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a significant risk factor for the development of dementia later in life. Injuries that result in loss of consciousness or amnesia, especially repeated injuries, can increase the risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The mechanism behind this involves the direct damage to brain cells and the potential for TBI to accelerate the deposition of abnormal proteins associated with dementia, such as amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease. 

    Understanding these factors highlights the complexity of dementia and underscores the importance of a holistic approach to prevention and management. While some factors, like age and genetics, cannot be changed, lifestyle adjustments and managing health conditions can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia. This holistic approach addresses the direct causes of neuronal death or malfunction and the broader spectrum of risk factors contributing to this condition. 

    Early Signs of Dementia

    Recognising the early signs of dementia can lead to a timely diagnosis and help you manage and understand the causes of dementia. 

    Early Signs Include

    • Short-term memory changes, such as forgetting recently learned information or important dates. 
    • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or work. 
    • Language problems, like trouble following or joining a conversation. 
    • Losing track of time, forgetting where they are or how they got there. 
    • Decreased or poor judgement. 
    • Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
    • Withdrawal from work or social activities. 

    Vascular Dementia: A Closer Look 

    Vascular dementia is caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain, often leading to stroke. The symptoms can vary widely but typically include difficulties with problem-solving, slowed thinking, and focus and organisation problems. 

    Managing underlying conditions, like high blood pressure, and adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk. 

    Causes of Dementia in the Elderly. 

    As people age, the risk of developing dementia increases. Apart from age-related changes in the brain, other factors such as accumulated health conditions, reduced cognitive reserve, and lifestyle factors play significant roles in the prevalence of dementia among the elderly. 

    Prevention and Management 

    While there is no sure way to prevent dementia, specific lifestyle changes can reduce the risk. These include maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical activity, quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure, and engaging in activities stimulating the mind. 

    In addition to the lifestyle changes mentioned, focusing on social engagement and mental health is essential. Building and maintaining strong social connections and managing stress through mindfulness or therapeutic practices can have a protective effect on brain health. 

    Regular mental stimulation through puzzles, learning new skills, or engaging in creative activities like painting or music can contribute to cognitive resilience, reducing the risk of dementia. These strategies and regular health check-ups to monitor and manage potential risk factors form a comprehensive approach to dementia prevention and management. 

    To learn more about dementia, including detailed prevention strategies and support resources, click here. Empowering yourself with knowledge can make a significant difference in managing or even preventing this condition. 


    Healthcare Archives – Reacts News | Link

    Sanders, C. (2016). Campaign addresses fear of dementia. Winnipeg Free Press, B.1.

    Dementia: 5 Quick Facts You Should Know | Ability Central | Link 

    Fiocco, A. J., Nair, N., Schwartz, G., Kin, F. N. Y., Joober, R., Poirier, J., & Lupien, S. J. (2009). Influence of genetic polymorphisms in the apolipoprotein (APOE) and the butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE) gene on stress markers in older adults: A 3-year study. Neurobiology of Aging. 

    Alzheimer’s disease Parkinson’s disease and vascular dementia – Nursing Depo | Link 

    Information Session – Dementia |  Link 

    causes of dementia

    What are the early signs of dementia?

    Early signs include short-term memory changes, difficulty completing familiar tasks, language problems, losing track of time, decreased judgment, misplacing things, and withdrawal from social activities.

    What is the main cause of dementia?

    One of the main causes of dementia is the death or malfunction of neurons in the brain, which can be due to various factors, including ageing, genetic predisposition, vascular conditions, lifestyle and heart health, and head injuries.

    What causes vascular dementia?

    Vascular dementia is caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain, such as those leading to stroke or brain injuries from other sources.

    causes of dementia

    Comment (0)

    This article doesn't have any reviews yet.

    Leave a comment

    Latest articles

    Related articles