Alzheimer's dementia: what it can do, how to prevent

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - In this week's Health Report we take a look at one of the world's leading diseases, one that has affected millions around the globe. Dementia is a medical term that is sometimes misunderstood, almost like the disease itself. According to the Alzheimer's Association, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all cases.

Thomas Grabowski is the Director of the Memory and Brain Wellness Center and Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. He has done countless studies to have a better understanding on Alzheimer's dementia.

"One of the things that we are really striving to help the medical and the public communities understand is that Alzheimer's dementia is just the last stage of a process that has been going on for many years," he says.

Because Dementia has a broad spectrum of factors that can contribute to the disease, the treatment can only be done on a case to case basis. Grabowski spoke about medical treatments used to help those with Dementia.

"We can replace missing brain chemicals and help people's memory and attention function better, but we haven't yet been able to blunt the natural history of the progression of it, of the disease," he said.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, is quoted as saying that she has been diagnosed with, "The beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer's disease," according to an open letter she released Tuesday. She was nominated to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1981. She was the first female Supreme Court justice, until she retired in 2006 to take care of her husband who has also been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. O'Connor now shares a similar story with the millions around the world that have been diagnosed with dementia.

And although the disease has been linked to factors that cannot be changed such as genetics. Researchers have found there are ways to reduce the likelihood of getting dementia by having a healthy diet, being aware of your cardiovascular health and physical exercise.