Cognitive Impairment vs. Dementia

Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll talk about the difference between cognitive impairment and dementia. Both impact cognitive function but they do so in slightly different ways. We'll talk about how each of these affect our memory and behavior.

Cognitive Impairment versus Dementia

Have you ever walked out the door without your keys? Or forgotten to turn the stove off after cooking dinner? Chances are we've all been forgetful at one point or another and it's nothing to be alarmed over! Especially if you're young, forgetfulness doesn't mean that you're experiencing cognitive impairment or dementia, which we'll go over in this lesson. We'll talk about the similarities and differences between each one, as well as the symptoms and causes. But first, we should talk about some basic definitions.

Cognitive impairment results in memory impairment or loss, but generally not to the extent that it seriously impacts day to day lives. It is more serious than simple forgetfulness and it might increase an individual's chances of developing a more serious condition over time. Experts are not exactly sure what causes cognitive impairment, but it's likely related to changes in the brain and can signal the beginning of a more serious condition.

Dementia is more serious than cognitive impairment. It often causes disruptions that are severe enough to impact day to day lives and make normal functioning hard. It causes memory loss and changes to behavior. Let's talk a little bit more in depth about each of these.

Symptoms and Causes of Cognitive Impairment

Cognitive impairment is generally characterized by an increase in forgetfulness, like forgetting our appointments or conversations we had with people. Often, patients suffering from cognitive impairment have a hard time doing more than one thing at a time. They might have difficultly solving problems or puzzles. Cognitive impairment generally doesn't interfere too much with your day to day life and, unlike dementia, symptoms do not generally worsen as time goes on.

Cognitive impairment is more likely to occur as you get older. There are also lifestyle factors that might be linked to cognitive impairment. For example, smoking might increase your chances of developing cognitive impairment. Lack of physical exercise has also been shown to increase the likelihood of developing cognitive impairment.

Cognitive impairment does not necessarily mean that you will develop something more serious, like dementia, but it is more likely that people with cognitive impairment will develop dementia, as it can be the beginning of a more serious condition. But for others, symptoms of cognitive impairment remain relatively stable.

If cognitive impairment becomes more severe and begins to interfere with our day to day lives and our ability to get things done, it might be progressing to dementia.

Symptoms and Causes of Dementia

Dementia isn't actually a specific disease. It's really more of an umbrella term to describe the symptoms that are common to a number of different conditions. Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, trouble learning new things, and problems with language. Dementia can also result in changes in our behavior and loss of interest in things we used to like to do.

Dementia happen when our brain cells are damaged. This damage makes it difficult for brain cells to communicate with one another, which in turn impacts thinking and behavior. Dementia comes in a number of different forms, but the most common form is Alzheimers, a condition that negatively affects our brain and causes dementia.

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