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Alzheimer's & Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) defines Alzheimer’s disease as a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks neurons in the brain. This results in the loss of memory, thinking and language skills, as well as behavioral changes. The disease is the most common cause of dementia in adults 65 years of age and older affecting more than 5 million Americans. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and 1 in 3 seniors will die from it, or another form of dementia. The disease cannot be cured.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is not a part of the aging process. Knowing the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease will allow you to get help for your senior should you start seeing some of the following signs:

Losing things, misplacing things, and/or memory loss

This is more than just forgetting where you put your keys from time to time – we all do that. This is memory loss that affects your life, like forgetting what the car keys are used for, for example.

Communication difficulties

You may notice that it is harder to hold a conversation with a senior because they forget what the story is about or may forget something you just said. Perhaps the senior is constantly asking the same question over or is forgetting the names of common everyday objects.

Impaired judgment

Those suffering from Alzheimer’s may have trouble judging distances or seeing correctly. This can make them a danger to themselves or others, especially if they are driving. Seniors may stop paying utility bills because they think that they are being taken advantage of.

Mood or personality changes

Does your senior’s mood change quickly? People will Alzheimer’s tend to feel confused, depressed, suspicious, paranoid, anxious, or fearful because they do not know what is going on with their mind or what to do about it. Changes that make a senior feel out of their comfort zone can lead to outbursts in seniors with this degenerative disease.

Strange eating habits

Alzheimer’s disease changes metabolic functions, which can affect a senior’s eating habits. Seniors may lose weight even when eating more calories per day. You may notice a senior eating odd food combination or non-food items. This is because the brain is receiving hunger signals, but the senior does not know exactly how to respond.

Causes of Alzheimer’s

Scientists are not exactly sure what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but they do believe that it may be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. The disease damages and destroys brain cells leading to the signs and symptoms you witness. The brain shrinks as more cells die making the effects of the disease more prevalent.

Some of the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease are:

  • Age
  • Family history and genetics
  • Down syndrome
  • Gender (women are more likely to develop the disease)
  • Past head trauma
  • Heart disease risk

How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed?

Currently, there is no specific tests to determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease. A doctor will diagnose you with the condition based on your symptoms, the information you provide, and the results of various tests. The different tests will help doctors rule out other conditions that present themselves as Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these tests include:

  • Lab tests
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Brain imaging

Alzheimer’s Treatments

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so a doctor’s treatment plan will consist of medications and therapies to prolong quality of life. They may prescribe medications to treat the cognitive or behavioral symptoms. They will also suggest that the senior’s caregiver(s) create a safe and supportive environment.

Other methods of treatment that may or may not be used in combination are:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Alternative medications or herbal remedies

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Frequently Asked Questions

I've heard that eating certain foods can actually work to help prevent Alzheimer's. Is that true?

An emerging number of studies would suggest that eating certain foods could promote brain health, while others can be harmful. Current research is investigating whether fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with a low-fat diet can serve to protect the brain against Alzheimer’s. Though, regardless of your predisposition to Alzheimer’s, it’s still vastly beneficial to eat as best as you can throughout your golden years.

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My husband has recently become more forgetful and I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I'm scared that it might be Alzheimer's. What are some of the symptoms to look for?

Don’t worry; mild forgetfulness is actually a normal part of growing older for many people. His forgetfulness may even be caused by treatable side effects from medication, or perhaps a vitamin B12 deficiency.

However, there are several other more serious conditions that may induce memory loss. The main symptoms of Alzheimer’s include: confusion during routine tasks or familiar settings, difficulty with spatial judgments, and sharp changes in mood or personality. In any case, scheduling an appointment with your doctor to evaluate his condition is a great way to put your mind at ease.

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