What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs people of their memory. At first, people have a hard time remembering recent events, though they might easily recall things that happened years ago.
People with Alzheimer’s might forget their loved ones. They might forget how to dress themselves, feed themselves, and use the toilet.
The disease makes brain tissue break down over time. It usually happens to people over age 65.
A person can live with Alzheimer’s disease for just a few years or for a few decades. More often, however, people live with it for about 9 years. About 1 in 8 people age 65 and over has the disease. Women are more likely to have it than men.
What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
People who get Alzheimer’s disease are usually older, but the disease isn’t a normal part of aging. Scientists aren’t sure why some people get it and others don’t.
Scientists are still studying many of these theories, but it’s clear that the biggest risks linked to Alzheimer’s disease are being older and having Alzheimer’s in your family.
10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s:
Mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. If you have trouble remembering someone’s name but it comes to you later, that’s not a serious memory problem.
But if memory problems are seriously affecting your daily life, they could be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. While the number of symptoms you have and how strong they are vary, it’s important to identify the early signs. You need to ask yourself some tough questions.
- Memory loss
This is the most common symptom. Do you easily forget information you just learned? Do you lose track of important dates, names, and events? Do you forget big things even happened? Do you ask for the same information over and over? Do you rely heavily on memory aids like Post-it notes or reminders on your smartphone?
- Trouble planning and problem solving
Do you have trouble making plans and sticking to them? Is it tricky to follow a recipe, even one you’ve used many times? Is it hard to concentrate on detailed tasks, especially if they involve numbers? For example, can you keep track of your bills and balance your check book?
- Daily tasks are a challenge
Even familiar things can become hard. Do you have trouble driving to a location you go to often? Can you complete an ordinary task at work? Do you forget the rules of your favourite game?
- Times and places are confusing
Can you fully grasp something that’s not happening right now? Are you disoriented? Do you get lost easily? Do you forget where you are? Do you remember how you got there?
- Changes in vision
Is it harder to read the words on the page? Do you have trouble judging distance? Can you tell colors apart? This is important because it can affect your driving.
- Words and conversations are frustrating
Vocabulary becomes hard. Can you find the right word you’re looking for? Or do you call things by the wrong name?
- You lose things
Everyone misplaces things from time to time, but can you retrace your steps to find them again? Do you put things in unusual places, like your watch in the refrigerator? Do you accuse people of taking things?
- Lapse in judgment
Have you made poor decisions lately? Do you make mistakes with money, like giving it away when you normally wouldn’t?
- Social withdrawal
Are you scaling back on projects at work? Are you less involved with your favourite hobbies? Do you lack motivation? Do you find yourself watching television or sleeping more than usual?
- Mood changes
Do you get upset more easily? Do you feel depressed, scared, or anxious? Are you suspicious of people?
Seeing Your Doctor
If you notice these signs, talk with your doctor. He or she will evaluate your physical and mental health. She will look over your medical history and do a mental status test, which looks at your memory, ability to solve simple problems, and thinking skills. She may also do blood or brain imaging tests.
She may then refer you to someone who specializes in Alzheimer’s, like a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in treating the brain and nervous system), psychiatrist, psychologist, or geriatrician (a doctor who specializes in treating older people).
Today, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Researchers are still trying to fully understand how the disease leads to memory loss and other problems with thinking and behaviour. They hope to one day reverse those changes to prevent or stop the disease.
Tips to Stay Smart, Sharp, and Focused
- Use Your Brain
It’s true: Use it or lose it. Stretching your brain keeps your mind sharp. People who are more active in mentally challenging activities are more likely to stay sharp.
- Read a book.
- Go to a lecture.
- Listen to the radio.
- Play a game.
- Visit a museum.
- Learn a second language.
- Mix Things Up
Remember trying to talk backwards as a child? Researchers at Duke University created exercises they call “neurobics,” which challenge your brain to think in new ways. Since your five senses are key to learning, use them to exercise your mind. If you’re right-handed, try using your left hand. Drive to work by another route. Close your eyes and see if you can recognize food by taste.
- Work Out to Stay Sharp
Exercise, especially the kind that gets your heart rate up like walking or swimming, has mental pluses, too. Although experts aren’t sure why, physical activity might increase the blood supply to the brain and improve links between brain cells. Staying active can help memory, imagination, and even your ability to plan tasks.
- A Healthy Diet Builds Brainpower
Do your brain a favour and choose foods that are good for your heart and waistline. Being obese in middle age makes you twice as likely to have dementia later on. High cholesterol and high blood pressure raise your chances, too. Try these easy tips:
- Bake or grill foods instead of frying.
- Cook with “good” fats like oils from nuts, seeds, and olives instead of cream, butter, and fats from meat.
- Eat colourful fruits and veggies.
- Eat fish.
- Watch What You Drink
You know that too many drinks can affect your judgment, speech, movement, and memory. But did you know alcohol can have long-term effects? Too much drinking over a long period of time can shrink the frontal lobes of your brain. And that damage can last forever, even if you quit drinking. A healthy amount is considered one drink a day for women and two for men.
- Video Games Train Your Brain
Grab that joystick. Several studies found that playing video games stimulates the parts of the brain that control movement, memory, planning, and fine motor skills. Some experts say gaming only makes you better at gaming. The verdict may still be out, but why let kids have all the fun?
- Music Helps Your Brain
Thank your mom for making you practice the piano. Playing an instrument early in life pays off in clearer thinking when you’re older. Musical experience boosts mental functions that have nothing to do with music, such as memory and ability to plan. It also helps with greater hand coordination. Plus, it’s fun — and it’s never too late to start.
- Make Friends for Your Mind
Be a people person! Talking with others actually sharpens your brain, whether at work, at home, or out in your community. Studies show social activities improve your mind. So volunteer, sign up for a class, or call a friend!
- Stay Calm
Too much stress can hurt your grey matter, which contains cells that store and process information. Here are some ways to chill:
- Take deep breaths.
- Find something that makes you laugh.
- Listen to music.
- Try yoga or meditation.
- Find someone to talk to.
- Sleep and the Brain
Get enough sleep before and after you learn something new. You need sleep on both ends. When you start out tired, it’s hard to focus on things. And when you sleep afterward, your brain files away the new info so you can recall it later. A long night’s rest is best for memory and your mood. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
- Memory Helpers
Everybody spaces out now and then. As you get older, you may not remember things as easily as you used to. That’s a normal part of aging.
Some helpful hints: Write things down, use the calendar and reminder functions in your phone, even for simple things (Call Dad!), focus on one task at a time, learn new things one step at a time.
- The Name Game
Have trouble recalling names? Always repeat a person’s name while you’re talking to them — at least in your head, if not out loud. Or invent a funny image or rhyme that you link with their name. For example, think of Bob bobbing out in the ocean.
Enjoy your life and keep yourself focused!
Source: WebMD Medical