Dementia is a disorder characterized by progressive deterioration of brain function, typically involving memory and at least one other affected category (language, visuospatial, executive function). What Dementia Isn’t Dementia is not just one type of brain problem. It's a group of symptoms that many different brain problems can cause. Most of the time, dementia does not get better. It often gets worse over time. Dementia is also not a normal part of aging. It results from damage to brain cells. Everyone loses some brain cells as they age. This can cause some symptoms. For instance, you may lose some short-term memory. You might forget a name or forget where you left your keys. That's normal. It is not dementia. Dementia makes it hard to remember, learn and communicate. It is much more than just forgetting things. Diagnosing Dementia People with dementia have serious problems with at least two functions controlled by the brain. Doctors call this "significant impairment." That means these problems keep the person from being able to function normally and have normal relationships. The brain functions affected by dementia include: Memory Communication and talking skills Ability to pay attention and stay focused Ability to think clearly and make good decisions Dementia has other symptoms, too: Personality changes Agitation Behavior problems Hallucinations (seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real) Types and Causes of Dementia Brain disorders that cause dementia include: Alzheimer’s disease. This is the most common type of dementia. Treatment may slow Alzheimer’s, but there is no cure. It is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. No one knows exactly what causes it. Scientists also don't know why some people get it and others don't. Vascular dementia. With this type of dementia, brain cells die because they don't get enough freshly oxygenated blood. Often this is the result of a stroke. Vascular dementia may be permanent. Lewy body dementia. Lewy bodies are abnormal forms of a protein in brain cells. People with Parkinson’s disease also develop Lewy bodies. Trembling, stiffness, and slow movements are characteristics of both dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD). Researchers don’t know what causes Lewy bodies, but they suspect both environmental and genetic factors play a role. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Loss of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain lead to this rare form of dementia. It is considered an early-onset form of dementia and tends to run in families. Other possible causes of dementia include: Vitamin deficiencies Thyroid disorders Side effects from medicine Drinking too much alcohol Depression Brain tumor Parkinson’s disease Brain infection Head injury Diseases that cause loss of brain cells Some types of dementia may get better with treatment. They include dementia that results from depression, a thyroid disorder, medication side effects, alcohol abuse, or a vitamin deficiency. What You Can Do About Dementia If you or a loved one has any symptoms of dementia, talk to a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and to rule out other causes of your symptoms. Medication can slow some types of dementia. Treatment can even reverse other types. There's no guarantee you won't get dementia. But, there are things you can do to make it less likely. Leading a healthy lifestyle tops the list. Start with these tips: Eat a heart-healthy diet. Get regular exercise. Stimulate your brain daily (puzzles, learn a musical instrument, learn a new language, etc.) Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control. Don't smoke.