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June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

This month, Blue Hills is putting a spotlight on dementia and Alzheimer's. Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a group of symptoms related in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80 % of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type.

To be considered dementia, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired:

You will often see people with dementia having short-term memory problems such as keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments, or traveling out of the neighborhood.

Many dementias are progressive - symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse. If you or someone you know is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don’t ignore them. Making an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause early, allows a person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and provides an opportunity to volunteer for clinical trials or studies. It also provides time to plan for the future.

Dementia is sometimes referred to as senility or senile dementia. However, serious mental decline is not a normal part of aging.

Diagnosis

 

There is no one test to determine if a person has dementia. Doctors make a diagnosis based on careful medical history, a physical examination, lab tests, and the characteristic changes in thinking, day to day function and behavior. Though doctors can determine if a person has dementia with a high level of certainty, it is much harder to determine the exact type of dementia as the symptoms and brain changes of different dementias can overlap.

 

Treatment and care

 

Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment that slows or stops most progressive dementias. There are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms.

 

Risk and prevention

Researches continue to explore the impact of other risk factors on brain health and prevention of dementia. Some of the most active areas of research in risk reduction and prevention include cardiovascular factors, physical fitness, and diet.

 

Cardiovascular risk factors:

Physical exercise:

Diet:

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Though increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information because Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning.

As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including:

 

People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Know the Signs: 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's

 

Stages of Alzheimer's

Mild (early stage)

An individual in the early stage of Alzheimer's may still function independently. They may still drive, work, and go to social activities. However, the person may feel as if they are having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or location of everyday objects.

 

Other common difficulties include:

 

Moderate (middle stage)

Moderate Alzheimer's is usually the longest stage and can last for several years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer's will require more care. In this stage, individuals with Alzheimer's may have a harder time performing tasks, such as paying bills, but may still remember significant details about their life.

They may often confuse words, get frustrated or angry, or act in unexpecting ways. Damage to the nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult to express thoughts and perform routing tasks,

 

Common symptoms include:

Severe (late stage)

The symptoms in the final stage of Alzheimer's are severe. Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation, and eventually, control movement. Communicating becomes more difficult. As their memory and cognitive skills continue to decline, significant personality changes may take place. Individuals in this stage also need extensive help with daily activities. Common occurrences in this stage include:

Unfortunately, there is no cure or way to stop or slow Alzheimer's. But there are drug and non-drug options that can help treat symptoms. The earlier the signs are noticed, the more you can your loved ones can prepare for the future. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, make an appointment with your Blue Hills doctor today.

 

Sources:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/stages

https://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/dementia/infographic_dementia/en/

https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/alzheimers-facts-and-figures-infographic-2019.pdf

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