Hard To Plan Or Solve Problems
Everybody makes a mistake sometimes. Maybe you made an error in the checkbook last month or paid the wrong amount on a bill. That’s normal stuff we all do. But if you are really struggling to do things like follow directions in a familiar recipe or keep track of bills the way you used to do, it could be a warning sign of memory problems.
How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect The Brain
Scientists continue to unravel the complex brain changes involved in Alzheimers disease. Changes in the brain may begin a decade or more before symptoms appear. During this very early stage of Alzheimers, toxic changes are taking place in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins that form amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Previously healthy neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. Many other complex brain changes are thought to play a role in Alzheimers as well.
The damage initially appears to take place in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, which are parts of the brain that are essential in forming memories. As more neurons die, additional parts of the brain are affected and begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimers, damage is widespread and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.
Causes Of Lewy Body Dementia Vs Alzheimer’s
LBD: As the name suggests, Lewy body dementia is believed to be caused by the buildup of Lewy body proteins in the brain.
Researchers are still seeking answers as to what exactly triggers these brain changes in both LBD and Alzheimer’s, but they have identified nine specific risk factors that they believe play a role in triggering many cases of dementia.
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Withdraw From Friends And Family
Are you avoiding friends, family, or co-workers? Is it hard to carry on or follow a conversation? When memory problems become more severe, it’s common for people to lose interest in hobbies, social events, or other activities they used to like doing. If that sounds like you, it’s time to talk to someone about it.
Planning And Decision Making
|Possible signs of Alzheimers disease or vascular dementia|
Being a bit slower when planning, but being able to think things through
Getting very confused when planning or thinking things through
Finding it harder to do several tasks at once, but being able to focus on a single task
Struggling to stay focused on a single task
Occasionally making decisions without fully thinking them through
Not making informed, careful decisions when dealing with money or looking at risks
Sometimes making a mistake with a new payment, but being able to manage overall budgets
Finding it hard to manage regular payments, like budgets or monthly bills
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Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early stages the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be very subtle. However, it often begins with lapses in memory and difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects.
Other symptoms may include:
- Persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events
- Vagueness in everyday conversation
- Apparent loss of enthusiasm for previously enjoyed activities
- Taking longer to do routine tasks
- Forgetting well-known people or places
- Inability to process questions and instructions
- Deterioration of social skills
- Emotional unpredictability
Symptoms vary and the disease progresses at a different pace according to the individual and the areas of the brain affected. A person’s abilities may fluctuate from day to day, or even within the one day, becoming worse in times of stress, fatigue or ill-health.
The Effects Of Alzheimers On The Brain
In people with Alzheimers disease, brain cells die and connections between brain cells may break down. One of the hallmark symptoms is abnormal protein deposits in the brain called plaques and tangles.
Plaques are dense clusters of protein that can block communication between neurons. Tangles are proteins that twist together that lead to the death of healthy brain cells.
In advanced Alzheimers, the brain shows significant shrinkage. Changes in the brain may occur a or more before symptoms start.
Its impossible to diagnose Alzheimers with complete accuracy while a person is alive. The diagnosis can only be confirmed when the brain is examined under a microscope during an autopsy. However, specialists can make the correct diagnosis up to 90 percent of the time.
The symptoms of Alzheimers and dementia can overlap, but there can be some differences.
Both conditions can cause:
- behavioral changes
- difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking in advanced stages of the disease
Some types of dementia will share some of these symptoms, but they include or exclude other symptoms that can help make a differential diagnosis.
Lewy body dementia , for example, has many of the same later symptoms as Alzheimers. However, people with LBD but are more likely to experience initial symptoms such as visual hallucinations, difficulties with balance, and sleep disturbances.
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What Are The Causes Of Dementia
Dementia is caused by damage to your brain. Dementia affects your brains nerve cells, which destroys your brains ability to communicate with its various areas. Dementia can also result from blocked blood flow to your brain, depriving it of needed oxygen and nutrients. Without oxygen and nutrients, brain tissue dies.
Damage to your brain results in different symptoms, depending on the area of your brain affected. Some dementias arent reversible and will worsen over time. Other dementias are due to other medical conditions that also affect your brain. Another group of health issues can result in dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions are treatable, and the dementia symptoms are reversible.
All of the possible causes of dementia are discussed in the question, Are there different types of dementia?
Dementia Vs Alzheimer’s: Differences And Similarities
The terms dementia and Alzheimers are often used interchangeably. They, however, are not completely synonymous. Dementia is a group of symptoms characterized by a decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning. Dementia is not simply the age-related forgetfulness it is associated with other changes as well. It hinders a person from performing their routine tasks. They find it difficult to focus, understand, concentrate, and have a conversation besides other complaints. There are several causes of dementia:
Although dementia is a cluster of symptoms, Alzheimers is a disease. It is the commonest type of dementia consisting of around 60-80% of dementia cases. Alzheimers disease is an irreversible, slowly progressive disorder of the brain that destroys memory and thinking skills which eventually makes a person unable to carry out the most basic tasks. Most people develop this disease in their mid-60s while for some the symptoms first appear between their 30s and mid-60s. There are seven stages of Alzheimers, dementia occurs in the mid to late stages of the disease.
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Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented
As the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not clear, there’s no known way to prevent the condition.
But there are things you can do that may reduce your risk or delay the onset of dementia, such as:
- staying physically fit and mentally active
These measures have other health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and improving your overall mental health.
Read more about preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Economic Impact Of Dementia
The total estimated worldwide cost of dementia was US$ 818 billion in 2015, which represented 1.09% of global GDP at that time. The annual global cost of dementia is now above US$ 1.3 trillion and is expected to rise to US$2.8 trillion by 2030
This figure includes costs attributed to informal care , direct costs of social care and the direct costs of medical care .
Direct medical care costs account for roughly 20% of global dementia costs, while direct social sector costs and informal care costs each account for roughly 40%. The relative contribution of informal care is greatest in the African regions and lowest in North America, Western Europe and some South American regions, while the reverse is true for social sector costs.
This means that if global dementia care were a country, it would be the 14th largest economy in the world. More information is available in our World Alzheimer Report 2015.
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How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimers disease.
To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem.
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.
People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimers or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
In addition, an early diagnosis provides people with more opportunities to participate in clinical trials or other research studies testing possible new treatments for Alzheimers.
Vascular Dementia / Multi
1 in 10 dementia patients are diagnosed with vascular dementia. It is characterized by not enough blood reaching the brain. This causes damage to blood vessels or blockages leading to mini-strokes or brain bleeding. Vascular Dementia is also known as multi-infarct or post-stroke dementia.
Unlike Alzheimers, memory loss is not always the first symptom with Vascular Dementia. Because different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions, the area of the brain damaged will determine the functions affected.
Unlike other types of dementia, actions can be taken to avoid vascular dementia. Lifestyle plays a significant role in the onset of vascular dementia. This means that implementing an exercise routine, healthy eating, and not smoking could help to prevent vascular dementia. Maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure is a key factor in avoiding vascular dementia.
However, the onset of vascular dementia is similar to other cases of dementia. Damage done to brain cells is irreversible. There is currently no drug approved to treat vascular dementia.
Are There Different Types Of Dementia
Dementias can be divided into three groups:
- Primary .
- Secondary .
- Reversible dementia-like symptoms caused by other illnesses or causes.
Types of primary dementia include:
Dementia due to other diseases and conditions
Other causes of dementia include:
Dementias due to reversible causes
Some conditions can cause dementia-like symptoms that can be reversed with treatment, including:
How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Alzheimers is complex, and it is therefore unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will successfully treat it in all people living with the disease.
Scientists are exploring many avenues to delay or prevent the disease as well as to treat its symptoms. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are developing and testing several possible interventions. Under study are drug therapies aimed at a variety of disease interventions, as well as nondrug approaches such as physical activity, diet, cognitive training, and combinations of these. Just as we have many treatments for heart disease and cancer, we will likely need many options for treating Alzheimers. Precision medicine getting the right treatment to the right person at the right time will likely play a major role.
Current approaches to treating Alzheimers focus on helping people maintain mental function, treating the underlying disease process, and managing behavioral symptoms.
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Frontotemporal Dementia Vs Alzheimer’s
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by progressive loss of nerve cells in the front and side areas of the brain. This is the area behind your forehead and behind your ears. These areas are responsible for decision making, behavior, emotion, and language. Damage to nerve cells will cause deterioration in these areas.
The main symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are changes in personality and behavior, and trouble with language ability. This might be accompanied with a hard time writing and comprehension problems.
Frontotemporal dementia was formerly referred to as Picks Disease. Dr. Arnold Pick first made notes about a patient with language skills problems back in 1892. Today, it might also be referred to as frontotemporal degeneration.
Onset of frontotemporal dementia is usually around 60 years of age. It is less common than Alzheimers in seniors over 65 years of age. However, in the 45-65 age range, it is just as common as Younger-Onset Alzheimers.
How Alzheimers Is Different
At its onset, Alzheimers tends to affect more of your learning and memory than other types of dementia, which might be more likely to impact your planning or language. In the brain of a person with Alzheimers disease, there are buildups of beta amyloid protein fragments between nerve cells as well as tangles of the protein tau inside cells. Scientists dont know exactly how these plaques and tangles contribute to Alzheimers disease, but some believe they throw off communication between nerve cells and interfere with normal cell processes, according to the Alzheimers Association. As the disease progresses and more of the brain is affected, a person may experience behavior changes, confusion, delusions, and difficulty speaking or walking. Other types of dementia can progress differently, depending on what parts of the brain are affected.
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Health Environmental And Lifestyle Factors
Research suggests that a host of factors beyond genetics may play a role in the development and course of Alzheimers. There is a great deal of interest, for example, in the relationship between cognitive decline and vascular conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Ongoing research will help us understand whether and how reducing risk factors for these conditions may also reduce the risk of Alzheimers.
A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimers. Researchers are testing some of these possibilities in clinical trials.
Is Your Memory Slipping
We all forget things sometimes, especially when life gets busy. You may start to notice this happening more often as you get older. Mild memory loss can be a normal part of aging. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have dementia. Only 1% of people over age 65 with normal age-related memory issues will get dementia each year.
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What Happens To A Persons Brain And Body As Dementia Gets Worse
Unfortunately, many types of dementia are conditions that worsen over time. When your brain doesnt get the nutrients and oxygen it needs, or junk blocks needed communication between the nerve cells of the brain, your brain tissue begins to die.
Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia usually begin with memory loss or lapses in judgment things that can be lived with for a while. As you lose more and more brain function, functions vital to life begin to be affected. Vital functions include breathing, digestion, heart rate and sleep.
In the late stages of dementia, people cant perform the tasks needed to keep their bodies alive. Brain damage and muscle weakness no longer allow even simple, needed movements. You cant communicate, walk, talk, control your bladder or bowels, feed yourself, or chew or swallow food without help.
When you cant care for yourself, move about, eat or drink enough to keep yourself hydrated and nourished, plus have mental decline, you leave yourself vulnerable to other illnesses. Pneumonia is one of these commonly seen illnesses in people with dementia. With a now frail body, a person may not be able to fight infections or even benefit from medication. The persons pain and discomfort may outweigh treatment options that can only offer a short-term benefit.
What Medications Are Available To Manage Dementia
Drugs approved for the most common form of dementia, Alzheimers disease, include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors, including donepezil , rivastigmine and galantamine .
- NMDA receptor antagonist memantine .
- Anti-amyloid antibody aducanumab .
Healthcare providers use these drugs to treat people with some of the other forms of dementia.
Cholinesterase inhibitors and the NMDA receptor antagonist affect different chemical processes in your brain. Both drug classes have been shown to provide some benefit in improving or stabilizing memory function in some people with dementia.
Cholinesterase inhibitors manage the chemicals in your brain that allow messages to be sent between brain cells, which is needed for proper brain function. Memantine works similarly to cholinesterase inhibitors except it works on a different chemical messenger and helps the nerve cells survive longer.
Aducanumab targets amyloid proteins, which build up into the plaques seen in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease.
Although none of these drugs appear to stop the progression of the underlying disease, they may slow it down.
If other medical conditions are causing dementia or co-exist with dementia, healthcare providers prescribe the appropriate drugs used to treat those specific conditions. These other conditions include sleeping problems, depression, hallucinations and agitation.
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