Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month
June 12, 2019
To understand what Alzheimer’s disease is, you must understand that it is a form of dementia. Dementia describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills at a severe enough level to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s accounts for up to 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Altogether, there are collectively 11 different types of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease – It’s Not Normal!
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. It is a disease that progressively worsens over the years. The greatest risk factor with Alzheimer’s comes with increasing age, with most who suffer from Alzheimer’s being 65 years old or older. However, this is not a disease that affects just the elderly. Approximately, 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
In Alzheimer’s early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with Alzheimer's lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors. Even though there is no current cure of Alzheimer’s, there are treatments for its symptoms along with scientists doing an endless amount of research to help cure it.
What’s Happening in the Brain?
The brain has 100 billion nerve cells. Each of these cells connect with many others to form communication networks. They form groups, and within these groups come differently specialized jobs. Some cells are involved in thinking, learning and remembering. While other cells are involved with seeing, hearing and smelling. Scientists believe Alzheimer's prevents parts of a cell's factory from running well. They are not sure where the trouble starts. But just like a real factory, backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.
10 Warning Stages
Alzheimer's is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms. It is important that if you notice any of the signs below, to not ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor right away:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words when speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
Stages of Alzheimer’s
Doctors have determined three different stages of Alzheimer’s:
- Mild Alzheimer’s disease (early stage): a person may function independently – he or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities. However, this person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. Common symptoms in the early stage is:
- Problems coming up with the right word or name
- Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
- Challenges performing tasks in social or work settings
- Forgetting material that one has just read
- Losing or misplacing a valuable object
- Increasing trouble with planning or organizing
- Moderate Alzheimer’s disease (middle stage): is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. At this stage, the person suffering with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care. Some symptoms during this stage include:
- Forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history
- Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
- Being unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school/college they graduated from
- Confusion about where they are or what day it is
- The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
- Trouble controlling bladder and bowels in some individuals
- Changes on sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
- An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
- Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding
- Severe Alzheimer’s disease (late stage): in this stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, lose control of movement. As their memory skills worsen, significant personality trait changes can take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities. The symptoms in this stage can include:
- Need round-the-clock assistance with daily activities and personal care
- Lose awareness of recent experiences, as well as of their current surroundings
- Experience changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and, eventually, swallow
- Have increasing difficulty communicating
- Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia
Ways to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
Current scientific research shows that making small changes in your life, through the ways listed below, can help reduce your chances of getting dementia.
- Break a sweat.
- Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
- Hit the books.
- Staying educated by taking classes at your local community college or online can also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
- Quit smoking.
- Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of cognitive decline, which can be dramatically higher when compared to those who have not smoked.
- Take care of your head.
- Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Ways to reduce your chance of a brain injury are wearing a helmet when on motorcycles and bikes and your seatbelt in the car.
- Follow your heart.
- Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes can negatively impact your cognitive health. They say if you take care of your heart, then your brain just might follow.
- Fuel up right.
- Eating healthy will help give your brain the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
- Get enough sleep.
- Getting enough sleep will help keep your mental health balanced and healthy.
- Challenge yourself.
- Challenging yourself with puzzles, crosswords or even building things can help keep your mind active.
- One in three seniors die from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. It kills more individuals than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
- 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. And by 2050, this number is projected to be nearly 14 million.
- Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease.
- In 2019, Alzheimer's and other dementias will cost the nation $290 billion. By 2050, these costs could rise as high as $1.1 trillion.
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