When a loved one begins displaying signs of dementia, it becomes very stressful for every one involved. Whether you are the one suffering from cognitive issues, you are the one tasked with the care of that person, or you are simply involved in the process, the whole situation can be very taxing.

Memory loss and confusion in a loved one may cause you to panic, but before you jump to conclusions, be sure you have investigated all of the possible causes. In some cases, it might not truly be dementia, but a simple vitamin B12 deficiency.

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that humans need in order for our bodiesvitamin b12 deficiency to produce enough red blood cells, which oxygenate the body. The vitamin is found in animal products such as meat, eggs, cheese, and milk, so most people get plenty from their diet.

Vegetarians and vegans can get their daily dose through plant foods fortified with B12 or through a regular supplement. Older people, though, may run into more trouble getting the recommended daily amount of B12.

As we get older, our bodies are not able to absorb Vitamin B12 quite as easily, and this can lead to a deficiency in some cases. Lack of the vitamin causes pernicious anemia, which manifests itself in the form of weakness, exhaustion, lightheadedness, and sometimes even stomach illness.

If the B12 deficiency lasts for a longer period of time, it often begins to mimic cognitive decline and causes confusion, poor balance, numbness in the fingers and toes, memory loss, and depression.

Is It Dementia?

Unfortunately, because this usually happens in the later years of life, it is often brushed off as a “sign of old age” or misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Both of these solutions are highly problematic, as the individual could theoretically continue to live a normal life if his or her B12 levels are brought back to normal. Instead, the symptoms worsen and what seemed like dementia might actually end up morphing into dementia, due to the low levels of B12 and associated brain development problems.

If a loved one begins to exhibit memory problems and you are concerned about the possibility of dementia, always be sure to have their Vitamin B12 levels checked before you start any medication or medical regimen. A simple blood test can determine if there is a lack of any essential vitamins within the body.

If it turns out to be a simple vitamin B12 deficiency, there are a number of ways to address the problem. Vitamin B12 supplements are available in a few different forms: pills, shots, and mouth or nasal sprays.

Preventing Cognitive Decline

A recent study also found that Vitamin B12 supplements, taken in conjunction with B6 and folic acid, can help slow brain atrophy associated with dementia. For this reason, many elderly people take a daily dose of these supplements in order to reduce their risk of dementia. The number of Americans with dementia is expected to triple in the next few decades, and the financial and emotional costs that come along with dementia are high.

Understanding the various steps you can take to help cut your risk may greatly benefit you in the future. Read more about the epidemic of dementia in the United States or find out what foods to eat to help protect your brain from dementia.