ALZHEIMER BRAIN AWARENESS MONTH
Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. The dangerous affliction causes loss of memory and severe cognitive illness. Sadly, most people with Alzheimer’s aren’t aware of it. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, worldwide, 47 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In fact, 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
Identifying Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
What is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)? Imagine losing your memory so severely you forget your name and the names of those you love. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which is serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unaffected person, beyond what may be expected from normal aging. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, which worsens as it progresses and eventually leads to death. Most often, AD is diagnosed in people over the age of 65, but early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur much earlier.
Early symptoms of the disease are often mistaken as a result of “getting old” or stress. However, the most common symptom in the early stages is remembering recent events. As the disease advances, symptoms can include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, language troubles and long-term memory loss. Because AD is incurable and worsens with time, those affected must rely on caregivers for assistance. That role is usually taken by the spouse or close relative and, because AD is known for placing social, psychological, physical and economic stress on the caregiver, those close to the patient can also feel the impacts of the disease as well.
The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are four stages of Alzheimer’s Disease:
The first symptoms are often mistaken for aging or stress. Testing can reveal mild cognitive trouble for up to eight years before an actual diagnosis of AD. The biggest change is memory loss, which involves short-term memory loss and an inability to learn new information.
Apathy can be observed at this stage and remains the most prevalent symptom throughout the course of AD.
The increasing impairment of learning and memory eventually leads to a definitive diagnosis. In a small portion of AD victims, problems with language, executive functions, perception and movements are more prominent than memory problems.
Older memories of the person’s life, facts learned and implicit memory (the body’s memory on how to do things, like using a fork to eat) are affected to a lesser degree than new facts or memories.
This stage features a limited vocabulary and decreased word fluency. The person is capable of communicating basic ideas. Motor tasks such as writing, drawing, dressing or movement coordination may be present but are unnoticed.
As the disease progresses, people with AD can continue to do things on their own, but they may need assistance with the most cognitively demanding activities.
In this stage, deterioration stymies independence with subjects unable to perform the most common activities of daily living. Speech, reading and writing skills are progressively lost. Motor skills decrease, so the risk of falling increases.
Memory problems worsen, and the person may fail to recognize close relatives. Long-term memory, which previously was available, becomes impaired.
Drastic behavioral changes are common, including wandering, irritability, crying, outbursts of aggression and resistance to caregiving. According to the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 30 percent of people with AD can become delusional. Victims can also have trouble controlling their bladder.
These symptoms can create stress for caregivers. The stress can be reduced by moving the person with AD from home care to long-term care facilities.
During the last stage, the person is completely dependent upon caregivers. Language is reduced to simple phrases and words, which leads to complete speech loss. Despite this, people can understand emotional signals.
Aggressiveness can still be present, but extreme apathy and exhaustion are very common. In this stage, people are often confined to their bed and lose the ability to feed themselves. AD is terminal, but pneumonia or other external factors are usually the cause of death.
5 Tips to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
Memory loss is one of the most recognized signs of “getting old,” but not everyone experiences this, just like not everyone will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets when it comes to warding off memory loss and even Alzheimer’s, but Harvard Medical School has some great recommendations for things that we can do to optimize our health and, hopefully, better our chances:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Cut back on calories and increase physical activity if you need to shed some pounds.
- Check your waistline. To accurately measure your waistline, use a tape measure around the narrowest portion of your waist (usually at the height of the navel and lowest rib). A National Institutes of Health panel recommends waist measurements of no more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.
- Eat mindfully. Emphasize colorful, vitamin-packed vegetables and fruits; whole grains; protein sources such as fish, lean poultry, tofu, and beans and other legumes; plus healthy fats. Cut down on unnecessary calories from sweets, sodas, refined grains like white bread or white rice, unhealthy fats, fried and fast foods, and mindless snacking. Keep a close eye on portion sizes, too.
- Exercise regularly. This simple step does great things for your body. Regular physical activity helps control weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, biking, rowing), can also help chip away total body fat and abdominal fat over time. Aim for 2 1/2 to 5 hours weekly of brisk walking (at 4 mph). Or try a vigorous exercise like jogging (at 6 mph) for half that time.
- Keep an eye on important health numbers. In addition to watching your weight and waistline, ask your doctor whether your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar are within healthy ranges. Exercise, weight loss if needed, and medications (if necessary) can help keep these numbers on target.
10 Early Warning Signs