Mental health deterioration

Mental degradation is expected in old age. However, sometimes, even young people can start feeling a decline in mental capacity. Here is how to recognize that condition and what to do about it.


Mental health deterioration
Viktor Simunović, Dr.med.
Dr.med. Viktor Simunović
10 November 2023.

In a world marred by constant pressure and relentless hustle, mental health issues have emerged as silent epidemics, gnawing at the core of our well-being. Older people and young adults alike, no one seems immune to the claws of mental health deterioration. Yet, it remains shrouded in stigma and misunderstanding.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and other diseases can cause this illness. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of mental deterioration, please consult with a healthcare provider.

What is mental deterioration?

Mental deterioration, often called cognitive decline or impairment, is the gradual loss of brain functionality. It can include issues with memory, attention, thinking, judgment, and language capabilities.

This deterioration can happen due to various reasons, including aging, brain injury, neurological disorders like Alzheimer's or dementia, or other mental health conditions. It's important to note that some degree of cognitive decline is a normal part of aging, but significant or rapid loss of mental function may indicate a more severe condition.

What diseases cause mental deterioration?

Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) are the most common diseases that can cause mental deterioration.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and other diseases can cause this illness. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of mental deterioration, please consult with a healthcare provider.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer's

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are related but distinct conditions.

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. It describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Dementia is a broad category that Alzheimer's disease can fall under.

Alzheimer's is a specific type of dementia. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for an estimated 60% to 80% of cases. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by problems with memory, language, and thought. In Alzheimer's disease, the brain cells themselves degenerate and die, causing a steady decline in memory and mental function.

In conclusion, Alzheimer's is a type of dementia, but not all dementia is Alzheimer's disease. They both involve impairments in cognitive functioning, but the causes and progression can differ. Also, the treatment approach for both conditions can vary. It's essential to get a thorough medical evaluation to determine the precise cause of cognitive impairment.

The most common risk factors for dementia


Miljenko Crnjaković, M.D., neurologist, wrote an interesting article about risk factors for dementia.

According to him, the most common risk factors for dementia are age, genetic background, and persistent arterial hypertension (high blood pressure).

Age

Age is considered the most significant risk factor for dementia. The reason it is so has yet to be entirely understood, but it is likely due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. As we age, the brain experiences natural wear and tear, and this may contribute to the development of dementia.

Genetic background

Genetic background is the second risk factor for dementia we cannot influence. Alzheimer's disease is such an example. The monogenic form of Alzheimer's disease is inherited in a way that if one parent has the disease, there's a high chance the child will also get the disease. It is caused by mutations in genes for amyloid precursor protein, presenilin 1 or presenilin 2, and is characterized by early onset of the disease.

In sporadic Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for 95% of cases, there is a more complex form of inheritance. It is multigenic, meaning it involves more than one gene. The APO gene, with its ɛ4-variant, is the most significant genetic risk factor.

Persistent Arterial Hypertension

Persistent Arterial Hypertension, also known as chronic hypertension, is a long-term medical condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. Normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mmHg, but in a person with persistent arterial hypertension, it stays high most of the time, generally above 140/90 mmHg.

Hypertension can lead to the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), reducing blood flow to the brain. It can also cause small areas of brain damage (microinfarcts), which can accumulate over time and impact cognitive function.

Furthermore, hypertension is associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease, one form of dementia. It is believed that hypertension increases the brain's exposure to amyloid-beta, a protein that is involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, studies have shown that hypertension is associated with a greater volume of white matter lesions and a smaller brain volume, both of which are associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

Other risk factors

In addition to those three, other risk factors are obesity, diabetes, smoking, alcoholism, physical and mental inactivity, head trauma, depression, sleep disorders, and low education.

Mental health deterioration symptoms

Everyone's experience with mental health is different, but some symptoms can indicate that a person's cognitive capabilities are declining. Here is a list of the most common symptoms. If you or someone you know experience some of them, please book a consultation and talk with our experts. They will prescribe treatment and medications to help slow down this illness.

  1. Persistent sadness or low mood

  2. Loss of interest in activities

  3. Changes in appetite or weight

  4. Sleep disturbances

  5. Fatigue or lack of energy

  6. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  7. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  8. Thoughts of death or suicide

  9. Agitation or restlessness

  10. Substance abuse

Is there a test for mental deterioration?

There are various tests for mental deterioration. These tests include:

  1. Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) or Folstein test

    It measures cognitive impairment and can track changes in cognitive function over time.
  2. Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)

    This test assesses different cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, language, and visuospatial skills.
  3. Clock Drawing Test (CDT)

    It is a simple test to screen people for signs of neurological problems, such as Alzheimer's and other dementias.
  4. Neuropsychological tests

    More comprehensive tests that assess memory, problem-solving skills, attention, counting skills, and language.

How to prevent mental deterioration?

  1. Regular exercise

    Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This can help keep your memory sharp.
  2. Healthy diet

    Eating a healthy, balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids can help protect your brain.
  3. Mental stimulation

    Keep your mind active. Engage in activities challenging your brain, like puzzles, reading, writing, or playing a musical instrument.
  4. Social engagement

    Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss.
  5. Get plenty of sleep

    Not getting enough sleep can lead to problems with memory and thinking.
  6. Regular check-ups

    Regular physical check-ups can detect problems early and keep them from becoming more serious.
  7. Avoid smoking

    Smoking can lead to a decline in your cognitive abilities.
  8. Limit alcohol

    Excessive consumption of alcohol increases Alzheimer's risk.
  9. Manage Stress

    High stress levels may cause damage to the brain.

Basically, try to live a healthy and happy life.

Mental health is not a joke

If you feel or notice that someone close to you is not mentally as should be, there is a quick and convenient way to get help. Telehealth platform EUDoctor can give you advice, medicine, or treatment, and you don't need to leave your home.

Experts at EUDoctor are recognized professionals, and discretion is assured. Book your consultation today and enjoy a happy and healthy life.

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