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Dementia and related care

Diagnosis, treatment and resources regarding memory conditions for you and your loves ones.

Allina Health can help you determine if your memory loss is part of the normal aging process and when it’s a symptom of something more serious? We offer treatment and resources for you and your loved ones to help you live well and cope well with the challenges of all stages of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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What it is

Dementia is a category of brain diseases and a group of symptoms that affect your memory and thinking and your ability to communicate and reason. The symptoms make it difficult to perform simple daily tasks. Alzheimer's disease is the main cause of dementia. Dementia can't be cured, but there are medications to manage the symptoms.

What to expect

Doctors reach a diagnosis of cognitive impairment or dementia through a series of medical evaluations, including a physical and neurological exam. In these exams, the doctor looks for signs of other conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease or a brain tumor that may be causing problems with how the brain functions. Speech, reflexes, eye movement and muscle coordination are all evaluated. Blood tests and brain imaging are often performed to rule out other conditions as the cause of memory loss.

Thinking skills are also assessed. Mental status tests include a mini-mental state exam, which is a series of questions to test your everyday problem-solving ability and mental skills. A mini-cognition exam consists of asking you to perform two simple tasks that require recall.

Good to know

While it’s usually possible to definitively diagnose dementia, it’s not always possible to pinpoint the exact cause.

If dementia is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as vitamin deficiency or a brain tumor, treating the condition can sometimes reverse your symptoms. In most cases, however, dementia cannot be reversed.

While no one is absolutely sure how Alzheimer’s and dementia start, it is believed that brain cells are damaged and destroyed gradually, which leads to memory loss and changes in brain function.

Good for treating

An Allina Health primary care provider can oversee your diagnosis. He or she may refer you or your loved one to community resources or a medical professional who specializes in assessing dementia and memory disorders.

Good for preventing

A healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk for dementia. To reduce your risk it's recommended that you: 

  • Choose hobbies that involve your mind (chess, crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument).
  • Eat healthful foods low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Get regular physical activity. Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes most, if not all, days.
  • If you have diabetes, follow your care plan and keep all well check-ups with your primary care provider. Maintain healthy blood glucose levels and watch how much alcohol you drink
  • Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure levels in the normal range.
  • Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking.

See your primary care doctor for regular preventive checks.

Related links

Source: Allina Health Neuroscience program
Reviewed by: Allina Health Neuroscience program

First published: 8/14/2019
Last reviewed: 8/14/2019