Thursday, December 12, 2013
Examining the various causes of dementia

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

The term dementia is most often associated with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, however, it is not the only cause. For example, someone who gets poisoned can develop symptoms of temporary dementia. Those symptoms wear off as the poison is removed from the system. What a lot of people fail to realize is that the second most common cause of dementia is what is called vascular dementia. When there is damage to the blood vessels going to the brain there is also damage to the brain cells which results in a form of dementia. Things that cause damage to blood vessels in other parts of the body can do the same to blood vessels in the brain. These things include untreated hypertension, untreated high cholesterol and poorly controlled Type II diabetes. There are some common symptoms of this type of dementia. For example, speed of thinking may be slowed down. Concentration may be a problem. There might be issues with communication skills. Memory problems are often noted. This is similar to what is seen with Alzheimer's disease. There might actually be brief periods of confusion about what is going on around the individual. There might be some neurologic symptoms. These might include weakness, unsteadiness with walking and urinary incontinence. There also might be psychiatric symptoms. These individuals can become obsessed with certain activities. For example, they might decide to devote themselves to something that they have not had a real interest previously. They might develop delusional ideas like thinking the government is out to get them. This is only some of the symptoms that can occur with vascular dementia. Other neurologic or psychiatric issues can also be present. One of the things that is true for this group is that the symptoms tend to start earlier in life than they do for Alzheimer's disease. If you have a suspicion that someone you know might have the early stages of vascular dementia, it is important to encourage them to have cognitive testing. The testing will assess their attention, planning and thinking speed. The underlying condition may lead them to deny that they have the symptoms. For that reason, it is important for loved ones to take an active role in getting the evaluation done. If vascular dementia is indeed present, there will be a need to control the underlying causes. The medication that is used for Alzheimer's disease patients is not effective for this type of dementia. Treatment is to adjust the lifestyle of the individual to prevent progression.

School of Nursing groundbreaking The Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes will break ground on its $10 million building expansion at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. School officials invite residents, visitors and local dignitaries to attend this special groundbreaking ceremony, which will be held in front of the school's Market Street entrance. Beebe Healthcare is poised to address the local shortage of nurses by expanding its 90-year-old nursing school. When the project is complete, 60 new nurses will be eligible each year to take the licensure exam. The grand opening of the new building is planned for 2015. A reception will follow the event at the Inn at Canal Square in Lewes. For more information, call the Beebe Medical Foundation at 302-644-2900.

Key Club Blood Drive Woodbridge High School's Key Club Blood Drive will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, at the high school auditorium. If you cannot participate that day, you can go to any local blood bank at your convenience and fill out a hero card when donating which will still give Woodbridge High School credit for your donation. Also, please spread the word among your families, friends and in the community.

To register to donate, contact Evelyne Adams at 337-8289, ext. 402 or

Grief Support Group Delaware Hospice will hold a free six-week support group for young widows, widowers and life partners (under the age of 60) on Tuesdays, 5:30 to 7 p.m., Jan. 7 through Feb. 11, at the Delaware Hospice Millsboro Office, 315 Old Landing Rd., Millsboro. Topics include what to expect when grieving the loss of a special person, ways to cope with grief, ways to prepare for special days and holidays, the complexities which include support and conflict regarding family dynamics, the significance of beliefs and expectations for healing, and ways to live with a renewed sense of purpose and hope. Registration is requested by Monday, Jan. 6, by contacting Carol Dobson, MSW, at 302-478-5707, ext. 1342 or by emailing

This Holiday Season give the gift of a healthy New Year The holidays are usually packed with big meals and bigger schedules with little time for a healthy meal or a workout. The Delaware Division of Public Health suggests giving the gift of a healthier New Year with fun and heart healthy gifts that encourage physical activity year-round. "Everyone knows that exercise is good for them but did you know that physical activity is much more than going for a jog?" said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Delaware Public Health Director. "It can include taking a walk, kicking the soccer ball with your kids, dance classes, swimming and other fun activities. And it does not have to be done all at once. Breaking up physical activity throughout the day is just as healthy and easier with busy schedules." DPH shares these gift suggestions for a healthier New Year and beyond:
  • gym memberships for a full or partial year;
  • a Delaware State Parks annual pass;
  • bicycle and helmet;
  • tennis racquet and balls;
  • football and basketball;
  • baseball and glove;
  • soccer balls and shin guards;
  • bowling balls;
  • registration fee for a volleyball, basketball, wrestling or baseball league; dance classes; or fitness classes;
  • jump rope or a work-out mat;
  • work-out DVDs such as yoga and pilates and small home weights;
  • skis and ski lift tickets;
  • hat, mittens or gloves, and a winter work-out jacket;
  • athletic footwear and socks;
  • music; and
  • cases of bottled water or a water bottle.
Increasing physical activity reduces the risk for chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, while improving mental health and wellness. The 5-2-1 Almost None campaign recommends that each day, children and adults eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables; engage in two hours or less of recreational screen time; participate in at least one hour of physical activity; and consume almost no sugar-sweetened beverages. To prevent obesity in children, it is important for children to lead physically active lifestyles and not consume too many calories. Obese children are at increased risk for developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and many other conditions and diseases. Forty percent of Delaware children ages 2-17 years were overweight or obese in 2011, according to the Kids Count in Delaware Fact Book 2013.