While mild forgetfulness is normal as people age, some memory problems can be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
The effects vary from person to person but it’s important to know the risk factors and be able to recognize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Additionally, although there is no definitive evidence about what can prevent Alzheimer’s or age-related cognitive decline, scientists are examining the likelihood that a healthy lifestyle may contribute to slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Is your loved one often forgetful? Does he or she have trouble remembering important dates, concentrating on daily tasks, call things and people by the wrong name, or put their possessions in the wrong place? We all deal with occasional forgetfulness or the perpetually misplaced item, but if these issues are becoming so severe that they are affecting one’s ability to live, it could be time to consult a healthcare professional.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is an age-related brain disease that gradually destroys a person’s memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest of tasks. Alzheimer’s can be serious and extremely frustrating for seniors, making everyday things like driving, shopping, or even holding a conversation difficult. It is the most common cause of dementia, a loss of cognitive functioning and behavioral abilities so severe that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Like diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions, Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that progresses over many years. Many risk factors may increase or decrease a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s, such as:
- Age: The risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after age 65. It becomes increasingly common as seniors reach their 80s, 90s, and beyond.
- Genetics: While genetic testing cannot predict who will or will not develop the disease, most early-onset Alzheimer’s cases are caused by permanent changes in three known genes inherited from a parent. Scientists have also identified a number of genes that may increase a person’s risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s.
- Health and Lifestyle: Just as diet, frequency of physical activity, weight, and habits like smoking can greatly contribute to levels of risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes—these factors can also potentially increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The number of symptoms one may encounter can vary. Here are some well-known signs to look for, and a few that you may not be aware of:
- Memory loss: The most well known symptom of Alzheimer’s, memory loss can cause one to lose track of important names, dates, and events.
- Troubles with planning and problem solving: For someone with onset Alzheimer’s it can be particularly difficult to make plans, follow instructions or focus on a specific task at hand.
- Daily tasks becoming more challenging: Alzheimer’s causes difficulty performing routine tasks like driving to a familiar location, or playing a favorite game.
- Confusion about times and places:
Alzheimer’s can make it difficult for sufferers to understand their surroundings, causing disorientation and fear. It is not uncommon for someone with Alzheimer’s to get lost easily, forget where he or she is or forgot how they got there.
- Changes in vision: A symptom that you may not be familiar with, Alzheimer’s can cause sufferers to have difficulty reading words on a page, effect his or her depth perception, and cause difficulty distinguishing between colors.
- Frustration over words and conversations: Alzheimer’s patients often face a difficulty with vocabulary, call things by the wrong names (Aphasia), struggle to follow conversations, or repeat themselves.
- Losing things: Alzheimer’s patients often misplace items or put them in unusual locations. It is also common for sufferers to forget doing so, or be embarrassed about their actions and even accuse others of taking things.
- Lapses in judgment: Sufferers may make poor decisions, not pay as much attention to hygiene or grooming, or dress inappropriately for the weather.
- Social withdrawal & mood changes: Alzheimer’s can also contribute to mood changes and cause patients to display a lack of motivation, less interest in hobbies and an affinity for more sedentary tasks like watching television or sleeping more than usual. He or she may also feel depressed or anxious and get upset more easily.
What Can You Do?
Currently, Alzheimer’s disease has no known cure, but recent research raises hopes that one day it might be possible to delay, slow down, or even prevent the disease. While there is no definitive evidence yet about what can stop Alzheimer’s or age-related cognitive decline, there are several steps you can take to keep your brain healthy and your body fit. Below are a few tips that can help us maintain mental acuity, slow cognitive decline and even contribute to scientists working to discover new methods for Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention.
Exercise regularly. Exercise and physical activity are good for your heart, waistline, and ability to carry out everyday activities. Researchers have found that exercise can stimulate your brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to healthy cognition; so keeping physically fit is imperative for mental health as well!
Eat your vegetables. Studies have found that a diet rich in vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, is associated with a reduced rate of cognitive decline.
Be social, read, and play games. Researchers have found a relationship between more frequent social activity and better cognitive function. Mentally stimulating activities such as reading books and magazines, attending lectures, and playing games are also linked to keeping the mind sharp.
See a doctor. If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of Alzheimer’s, a specialist like a neurologist or geriatrician can evaluate your physical and mental health, provide you with a diagnosis, and help you with memory care treatments that may relieve symptoms.
Join a research study. Help scientists, people with Alzheimer’s, and the families of people with Alzheimer’s by volunteering to participate in clinical trials and studies. Be sure to check with your doctor before doing so, as treatments and supplements may not be right for you or may interfere with other treatments that have been prescribed for you.
At Towne Club Windermere, located in beautiful Cumming, Georgia, we offer the amenities necessary to help our residents achieve a healthy body, inspired mind and awakened spirit. Our Heartfelt Connections™ Memory Care Program is nationally recognized for offering people with Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases that affect the mind the care and resources that they need to maintain physical and emotional well-being and a high quality of life.
For more information regarding the services offered at Towne Club Windermere, visit our Contact Us page, or call 770-954-8254.
Sources: WebMD and National Institute on Aging
National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/introduction