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What Causes Dementia?

Dementia may occur because of the following conditions:

While experts understand that dementia occurs because of changes in the brain, they can’t always pinpoint one exact reason for those changes.

Is Dementia Hereditary?

Dementia isn’t always hereditary. But if you have an immediate family member who developed dementia before age 60, you have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Dementia Risk Factors

There are many factors that increase your risk of dementia:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking
  • Social isolation
  • Untreated hearing loss

How Is Dementia Diagnosed?

Our specialists in the Cognitive Disorders Clinic offer comprehensive evaluations and tests for dementia and other types of cognitive disorders. Diagnosing dementia usually involves a multi-pronged approach:

  • A full intake and medical history

  • Brain imaging tests

  • Neuropsychological evaluation

 After you complete all necessary testing, you will have another visit with your neurologist to review your results, discuss your diagnosis, and talk about treatment options and next steps.

Dementia Treatment

There’s no cure for dementia. But some medications and lifestyle changes may decrease symptoms and improve your quality of life:

  • Antidepressants to boost mood and decrease anxiety

  • Healthy habits such as sleeping well, eating a nutritious diet, and exercising

  • Medicines that slow the breakdown of certain brain chemicals

  • Therapy where patients reminisce on past experiences or participate in activities, such as singing, cooking, or playing word games

Our specialists will explain what available treatment options may work best for you. 

Can Dementia Be Reversed?

Most dementia is progressive, meaning it worsens over time and can’t be reversed. In rare cases, such as after a stroke, people may have dementia symptoms that stabilize and stop progressing.

How to Prevent Dementia

Some lifestyle changes can help with dementia prevention:

  • Eat a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean Diet or the MIND diet.

  • Engage in activities that stimulate your brain.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Maintain positive social relationships.

  • Manage any co-existing mental or physical health conditions.

  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco use.

  • If you struggle with hearing loss, get treatment.

How Long Can You Live with Dementia?

Different types of dementia affect your lifespan differently. Most people live for years after their initial diagnosis. Your health care provider will discuss the implications of dementia and how it can affect your lifespan with you.

Find a Cognitive Disorders Specialist

Why Choose the Cognitive Disorders Clinic?

The Cognitive Disorders Clinic at University of Utah Health is the most comprehensive and longest-running cognitive evaluation center in the Mountain West region. We have a multispecialty team with a breadth of experience not found elsewhere in the region. 

Our clinic is a research center and education resource for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Our interdisciplinary team includes neurologists, neuropsychologists, and specialized social workers. These specialists evaluate and treat cognitive disorders using the most advanced, high-end imaging techniques, diagnostic tools, and treatment options.

Schedule a Cognitive Disorders Evaluation

If you or a loved one are having trouble with memory, language, or daily activities, talk about your symptoms with your primary care provider. We accept self-referrals; however, we prefer referrals from a primary care provider or neurologist. You may request an appointment or call 801-585-7575. Before your appointment, please send all previous medical records and brain imaging, if relevant.

To refer a patient to our Cognitive Disorders Clinic, please fill out our referral form and fax it to 801-585-2746.

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