July 7, 20220

Brain Health: Types, Symptoms, and Causes of Dementia

When speaking about health, the first thing that pops up in people’s minds is body health; exercising, weightlifting you name it. But never has it occurred to someone that we need to take care of our brain health just as much as our body. Our brain is a complex organ that is responsible for intelligence, interpreting senses, and controlling behaviour and movements.  If it is neglected our brain health deteriorates and there are risks of developing neurodegenerative diseases and one of them is Dementia.

By 2030, Malaysia will become an ageing nation where those aged 60 and above will reach 5.2 million which is nearly 15% of the total population from 3.5 million in 2020. It is then projected to reach up to 9.2 million in 2050 by 23.6% where Malaysia will then be known as a super-aged nation. Thus, getting to know the root of dementia will come in handy as it is considered one of the leading causes of disabilities in older people. Dementia has always been related to an illness associated with ageing as it is a neurological degenerative illness where one’s cognitive abilities start to decline. Demented people have trouble thinking, remembering, reasoning and controlling their emotions and behaviour. The severity of this illness varies from mild to severe where it can hinder their daily activities and become dependent on others.



Dementia is just an umbrella term for an individual’s changes in memory and logical abilities. The are several other forms of dementia and the symptoms vary according to the disease.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia making up 60%-80% of the case. It is a progressive disease starting with mild memory loss and eventually leads to a loss of ability to carry out simple daily activities like carrying on a conversation.

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include short-term memory loss and mood changes. As the condition progress, it could lead to trouble speaking and walking.


  • Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia contributes 20% of all dementia cases which makes it the second most common form of dementia. It is caused due to disrupted blood supply to the brain resulting in a lack of oxygen and nutrients.  It is most prevalent among older adults and may be linked to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and stroke as it can block an artery in your brain.

Confusion and disorientation are common symptoms in the early stages, but they may have difficulty concentrating and performing tasks in the latter stages.


  • Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body is protein deposits that develop in the nerve cells of the brain area that is responsible for thinking, memory and motor control. This protein disrupts neural signals and communication which causes memory loss, hallucination and disorientation.

People with Lewy Body dementia exhibit symptoms such as changes in alertness, and attention as well as signs similar to those affected with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.


  • Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disorder that affects movement and it can gradually worsen over time. There are at least 20,000 people mainly men in Malaysia who is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and it could quintuple in the next two decade.

Early signs of Parkinson’s Disease are usually subtle and usually disregarded until the condition worsens. The noticeable signs are tremors, changes in gait and posture, swallowing difficulties, stiff limbs and reduced facial movements.


  • Frontotemporal Dementia

As the name of the disease, this type of dementia affects the front (frontal lobes) and side (temporal lobes) of the brain that control language and behaviour. Although dementia affects older adults, however, in this case, it can affect people as young as 45 years old as it develops slowly.

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia include personality and behaviour changes, difficulty in speaking and constructing words, stiff movements and difficulty swallowing. As it develops, it can cause memory problems and loss of bladder and bowel control.


  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

This disease is one of the rarest types of dementia, affecting only one in every million people. It spreads quickly, and many patients die within a year of being diagnosed.

It shares symptoms with other types of dementia, such as confusion, memory loss, agitation, and sadness. People with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease also show signs of muscle twitching and stiffness.


  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is caused by a lack of vitamin B-1 and it is actually two different conditions that can happen simultaneously which are Wernicke’s disease followed by Korsakoff syndrome.

Wernicke disease occurs due to bleeding in the lower sections of the brain insufficient vitamin B-1 that could arise from malnutrition and alcoholism. The prominent symptoms of Wernicke disease are double vision, drooping upper eyelid and loss of muscle coordination. Korsakoff syndrome surfaces as it is left untreated and shows symptoms of difficulty in processing information, learning new skills and remembering things.


  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a disorder that causes fluid build-up in the ventricles of the brain, causing tissue damage and dementia symptoms.

The illness can include poor balance, forgetfulness, mood fluctuations, sadness, frequent falls, and loss of bowel or bladder control.


  • Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that usually occurs in young adults. This illness can induce dementia and inhibit movement due to the premature breakdown of the brain’s nerve cells.

There are two types of Huntington’s disease which are juvenile and adult-onset. Those with the juvenile type typically suffer symptoms throughout childhood or adolescence, whereas those with the latter type typically experience symptoms in their 30s or 40s.

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease are jerking, difficulty walking, and trouble swallowing as well as dementia-related symptoms such as difficulty focusing on tasks, trouble speaking coherently and difficulty learning new things.


  • Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia is a condition in which a person has more than one type of dementia. The most common combination is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia which shows symptoms of speaking and walking difficulties.



Although symptoms experienced by people vary from one another depending on factors contributing such as personality and parts of the brain affected, we should not dismiss any changes experienced.

These are the most common symptoms that we should look out for and start taking preventive action.



There are several risk factors that can contribute to dementia ranging from family history, lifestyle as well as illness.



According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation, Malaysia (ADFM) in 2020, the population of people living with dementia is around 204,000 to 264,000.

It is estimated to triple the amount to 637,500 to 825,00, an increase of 312% for the next 3 decades. We have to take action in our life in order to reduce the risk of developing all types of dementia as it is not a normal ageing process.

The rule of thumb is to have a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly. Aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, swimming and cycling can promote blood circulation which is great for boosting brain health as well as cardiovascular conditioning.

Aside from being physically healthy, you must also be internally healthy by adopting a healthy diet. By making the right food choices can keep obesity and diabetes at bay and protect our brain function.

Alcohol and smoking should not be used excessively as it degrades the function of the brain. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of stroke and heart diseases. An avid smoker suffers from blood pressure as well as cardiovascular diseases due to the narrowing size of arteries. This can cause a low supply of oxygen to the brain thus, increasing the risk of developing dementia. It is best to quit smoking and stick to the recommended limit of drinking.

Lastly, stay mentally alert by regularly exercising your mind. Try out simply yet challenging brain teasers, puzzles and games to keep your mind engaged as it has been proven to slow down cognitive decline.

Although there is no proven research on preventing dementias, practising these simple guides and changing your lifestyle is good for your health as you age as well as reducing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.



  1. https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2022/01/29/revitalising-an-ageing-nation
  2. Hong, L. W., Khee, H. Y., Mang, G. P. H., Mit, E. C. G., Nordin, N., Len, T. L., … & Rosli, N. (2022). Dementia of the Ageing Population in Malaysia: A Scoping Review of Published Research. Aging and Health Research, 100077.
  3. https://www.nst.com.my/news/online-special/2022/06/802683/dementia-cases-set-rise-312-cent-2050-malaysia-prepared%C2%A0
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/frontotemporal-dementia/#:~:text=Frontotemporal%20dementia%20is%20an%20uncommon,the%20frontal%20and%20temporal%20lobes).
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm#:~:text=Alzheimer’s%20disease%20is%20the%20most,thought%2C%20memory%2C%20and%20language.



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