Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease attacks the brain resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.  It is the most common form of dementia, and accounts for around two-thirds of dementia cases.

Amyloid plaques

The accumulation of amyloid plaques between nerve cells in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.  They are sticky lumps that are formed from deposits of amyloid-beta protein.


Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances found in food that help to prevent oxidation, a process that damages cells and may be involved in causing dementia.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels.  A person’s blood pressure is measured on the inside of an elbow at the brachial artery, which is the upper arm’s major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart.  A person’s blood pressure is usually expressed in terms of the systolic (maximum) pressure and diastolic (minimum) pressure, for example 118/82.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.  BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared.

Brain reserve

Brain reserve refers to a reserve of healthy brain cells and connections between cells and efficient cognitive skills that are built up over your lifetime.  This reserve can help the brain keep functioning well and delay the onset of dementia.

Brain training

Brain training games or programs are structured programs, usually computerised, designed to train particular cognitive functions by repeated practice.  There is no evidence yet that brain training can reduce dementia risk.


Cholesterol is a type of fat carried in our blood and is essential to cell structure.  Eating too much saturated fat leads to excess cholesterol which can result in blocked blood vessels.


The cognitive functions of the brain are the higher level thinking functions, including memory, learning, attention, language, decision making, reasoning, judgement, comprehension, spatial skills and planning.  Cognitive decline is a gradual decrease in your cognitive abilities over time.  This is what happens in dementia.


The cortex is the outermost layer of the brain.  It contains the nerve cells and plays a key role in cognitive functions.


A delusion is a fixed belief that is false or fanciful and is the result of an illness or brain disease.  It is a false belief that is firmly sustained despite what constitutes obvious proof or evidence to the contrary.


Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain.  Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform every day tasks.

Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is a form of dementia characterised by the presence of Lewy bodies in the cortex of the brain.  Lewy bodies damage nerve cells resulting in cognitive problems.

Dementia risk reduction

There are a number of risk factors associated with dementia.  Dementia risk reduction relates to addressing these factors to reduce your chances of developing dementia.


Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot maintain normal blood glucose levels due to problems in the production of insulin by an organ called the pancreas.


Enzymes are proteins that increase the rates of chemical reactions in cells.  They help convert molecules into different molecules.


Folate, or folic acid, is vitamin B9 and is essential for brain and blood cell formation and health.  It is found in leafy vegetables such as spinach, asparagus and lettuces, dried or fresh beans and peas, sunflower seeds, fruits such as oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, banana, raspberry, grapefruit and strawberry, and vegetables such as beets, broccoli, corn, brussels sprouts and bok choy.

Frontotemporal dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is a form of dementia that involves damage to the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain.  Behaviour, language and other cognitive skills are affected.


A hallucination is a perception in the absence of a stimulus.  Hallucinations are defined as perceptions in a conscious and awake state in the absence of external stimuli which have qualities of real perception, in that they are vivid, substantial and located in external space.  Hallucinations can occur in any sensory modality – the person may see, hear, feel, smell or taste something that is not really there.


Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood.  Amino acids are the basic structural units of proteins.  At high levels, homocysteine can damage blood vessel walls and the blood clotting mechanism.

Late life / Old age

Late life, or old age, is a normal developmental life stage and usually refers to those aged 65 and older.

Midlife / Middle age

Midlife, or middle age, is a normal developmental life stage and usually refers to those aged between 40 and 65.

Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats, also known as monounsaturated fatty acids, can assist with lowering blood cholesterol.  Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, canola oil, macadamia oil, avocado, nuts, and margarines that are labelled “monounsaturated”.

Neurofibrillary tangles

Neurofibrillary tangles are twisted fibres inside brain cells made up of tau protein.  They occur in some forms of dementia and cause a breakdown in the brain cell’s ability to communicate with other brain cells.


Obesity is a condition in which a person is very overweight.  It is determined by a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of unsaturated fats that have a role in regulating blood pressure and blood clotting, in helping to maintain a healthy immune system, and assisting brain and spinal cord function.  Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in cold water fish (salmon, tuna and sardines), flax (linseeds and cold pressed linseed oil), soya beans, walnuts, and dark green leaves (spinach and silverbeet).


Statins are a class of drugs that lower blood cholesterol levels and may be prescribed to people with high cholesterol or with heart disease.


A stroke is rapid loss of brain function(s) due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain, caused by a blocked or burst blood vessel.

Susceptibility genes

Susceptibility genes are genes are genes that make you more susceptible to developing a disease, but do not cause the disease.

Trans fats

Transunsaturated (trans) fats are unsaturated fats that behave similarly to saturated fats and can raise blood cholesterol levels.  Trans fats can be found naturally in small amounts in meat, milk and cheese.  They are also created during the manufacture of some table margarines and in solid spreads used to make baked products such as pies, pastries, cakes and biscuits


Vascular means ‘related to blood vessels’.  Vascular risk factors are those that can affect the health and function of our blood vessels, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is a form of dementia associated with problems of circulation of blood to the brain.  It can sometimes result from a stroke or many mini-strokes.


A vitamin is an organic compound required as a nutrient in tiny amounts.  A compound is called a vitamin when it cannot be synthesised by the body in sufficient quantities, and must be obtained from the diet.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and the formation of blood.  It is involved in DNA synthesis and regulation.  It is found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

Source:  Alzheimer’s Australia

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