As we’ve spent this month in thankfulness of the people that we love and the things we have been gifted with, we should not forget about those who suffer. This month marks the observance of National Alzheimer’s Awareness month.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder that typically affects the elderly. It is a form of dementia, one of the most common neurological disorders that affects memory and the ability to complete daily tasks. While Alzheimer’s is not the only kind of dementia, it is the most common. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, between 60 and 80 percent of dementia cases are attributed to Alzheimer’s disease. And while one of the biggest risk factors for the disease is advanced age, it should not be considered a normal part of the aging process. It is a neurological disorder that gets worse over time, eventually leading to severe impairment of one’s ability to care for themselves and carry out daily tasks.
The Alzheimer’s Association has identified ten common signs that can be used to identify if someone you know is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, the idea that parts of Alzheimer’s disease are part of normal aging makes it difficult for the disease to be diagnosed early. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is important to get your loved one to a neurologist for evaluation if they exhibit a number of the following signs or symptoms:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Changes in planning or decision making
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Decreased or poor judgement
Withdrawl from work or social activities
Changes in mood and personality
While some of these signs may appear to be more than likely to be due to typical aging, the severity of symptoms that appear with Alzheimer’s and dementia differentiate the two. There are risk factors that should be viewed together with the symptoms that appear above. While advanced age is the number one risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, other factors such as race, genetics, and environmental interactions can increase one’s risk of developing the disease. Due to other disorders to which they are more prone, individuals of Latino or African-American descent may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Additionally, head trauma and heart disease can increase one’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia when paired with other risk factors.
While there is no current research that shows that Alzheimer’s or dementia can be prevented, there are studies that are being conducted to understand the connection between the development of plaques in the brain (a leading cause of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s) and the introduction of antibodies to those plaques can reduce the instances of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The study, conducted on funding from the Alzheimer’s Association by researchers in Massachusetts, began in 2014 and will follow older individuals with no symptoms of beta-amyloid plaques to discover the changes associated with cognitive damage.
For more information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org.