CURRENT ISSUE:  OCTOBER 2023

Health Matters: What to Know About Alzheimer’ Disease

   

By Dr. Dhruv Patel

Here’s What to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. As we get older, we can eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things.

However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes to thinking patterns may be a sign that brain cells are failing. This can ultimately lead to dementia.

Around the world, many struggle with dementia, and 60-80% of those that are diagnosed have Alzheimer’s disease. Neither of these diseases are normal ailments that come with aging.

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia which is a progressive, deadly brain disease. While there is no current cure, researchers are working to discover the root cause of the disease. It is believed to be caused by shrinking of the brain, causing brain cells to die and brain damage.

Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Symptoms usually start off mild and increase over time. Some of the most common symptoms include memory loss, taking longer to complete daily tasks or initiatives, repeating questions, misplacing things, mood or personality changes, increased anxiety or aggression and difficulty with speech.

Those with memory loss or other symptoms of Alzheimer’s may find it difficult to recognize their own signs, making it more common for family and close friends to notice memory loss signs or other symptoms of the disease. Because some of the earlier signs of the disease can mimic other common signs of aging, it can be hard to detect whether you or your loved one may have Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless, if you or your family member are struggling to remember everyday things, it is important to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician.

During the appointment, your physician will discuss your full medical history, the signs and symptoms you’re experiencing and perform a neurological exam. The neurological exam mainly tests reflexes, coordination and balance and muscle strength.

In addition to a neurological exam, other tests, such as blood tests, may be conducted to evaluate a patient’s condition. In fact, a blood test could be used to rule out Alzheimer’s disease, as it could uncover another condition with similar symptoms. A doctor may also order scans, such as an MRI, to see detailed images of the brain.

These scans may detect other brain conditions, such as a tumor, or indicate shrinkage in areas that have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. CT scans can also identify any strokes or head injuries, while a PET scan can be helpful in showing any areas of the brain that isn’t working properly.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are steps you or your loved one can take to manage the disease and maintain cognitive or behavioral health as long as possible. To start, there FDA-approved medications to help treat cognitive symptoms such as memory loss, thinking issues or confusion. For other issues such as anxiety or depression, anti-depressants may be helpful in treating those symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It is important to consult your doctor about any possible treatments through medication. 

In addition to medication, having a good exercise routine, a healthy diet, and a safe environment for you or your loved one can help manage the condition. By regularly exercising and eating well you can keep the body active to improve heart health and maintain overall health while avoiding other nutrition-related conditions. Furthermore, having a daily routine helps create stable and safe living environment for an Alzheimer’s patient.

November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. More than six million Americans live with Alzheimer’s and three million new cases are diagnosed every year.

Sadly, Alzheimer’s disease is so prevalent, many people know someone who has been impacted by the disease, whether it’s touched your own family or a friend’s loved one. This month, and all year long, take time to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and how you can recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease.  

For more from our Health Matters column click here!

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