Balance And The Stages Of Alzheimers / Dementia
Balance issues in the early stages of Alzheimers disease is not normal. Someone with Alzheimers typically doesnt experience difficulty staying upright until the later stages, when communication between brain cells has become so compromised that most basic physical actions, including things like swallowing, become harder.
If someone with Alzheimers exhibits trouble with balance in the early stages, this could indicate a rarer form of the disease. Posterior cortical atrophy , also called Bensons Syndrome, is a variant of Alzheimers disease that disrupts the back of the brain, responsible for vision and coordination. PCA can develop earlier in a persons life than typical Alzheimers, usually in the mid-50s or early 60s. The first symptoms are changes in vision, making tasks like reading a line of text more difficult. Spacial awareness, including the ability to judge distances, becomes compromised. Someone with PCA may not be able to tell if objects are moving or not, and distinguishing multiple objects at once can also become too hard. These symptoms may combine to put a person off-balance. About five percent of cases of Alzheimers are PCA.
The Difference Between Alzheimers And Dementia
Although you may hear the terms dementia and Alzheimers disease used interchangeably, it’s important to know they are distinct concepts. Alzheimer’s is a specific health condition, although it is the most common cause of dementia.
Other causes of dementia include:
What Kind Of Treatment Is Available
Most people living with mixed dementia are diagnosed with just a single type of dementia. Therefore, a physician might base the choice of medication on the type of dementia that has been diagnosed.
Currently, there arent any pharmaceutical drugs available that are specifically targeted to treating mixed dementia. In situations where the physician considers Alzheimers disease to be among the conditions contributing to a persons dementia symptoms, they may prescribe the medications intended for Alzheimers disease treatment.
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How Does Mixed Dementia Develop
Research indicates that mixed dementia is often not recognised and diagnosed effectively, with the person diagnosed as having one type of dementia. As well as an inaccurate diagnosis, this can lead to the diagnosed person missing out on interventions that could be helpful for the unrecognised condition. The symptoms of mixed dementia can vary depending on the part of the brain affected. If the person has two types of dementia the symptoms can be more noticeable and appear to progress more rapidly.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia
Early symptoms of dementia include :
- Forgetting recent events or information
- Repeating comments or questions over a very short period of time
- Misplacing commonly used items or placing them in usual spots
- Not knowing the date or time
- Having difficulty coming up with the right words
- Experiencing a change in mood, behavior or interests
Signs that dementia is getting worse include:
- Ability to remember and make decisions further declines
- Talking and finding the right words becomes more difficult
- Daily complex tasks, such as brushing teeth, making a cup of coffee, working a tv remote, cooking, and paying bills become more challenging
- Rational thinking and behavior and ability to problem solve lessen
- Sleeping pattern change
- Anxiety, frustration, confusion, agitation, suspiciousness, sadness and/or depression increase
- More help with activities of daily living grooming, toileting, bathing, eating is needed
- Hallucinations may develop
The symptoms mentioned above are general symptoms of dementia. Each person diagnosed with dementia has different symptoms, depending on what area of the brain is damaged. Additional symptoms and/or unique symptoms occur with specific types of dementia.
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Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know
As they get older, many people worry about developing Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. If they have a family member with Alzheimer’s, they may wonder about their family history and genetic risk. As many as 5.5 million Americans age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s. Many more are expected to develop the disease as the population agesunless ways to prevent or delay it are found.
Although scientists have conducted many studies, and more are ongoing, so far nothing has been proven to prevent or delay dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers have identified promising strategies and are learning more about what mightand might notwork.
We know that changes in the brain can occur many years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. These early brain changes point to a possible window of opportunity to prevent or delay debilitating memory loss and other symptoms of dementia. While research may identify specific interventions that will prevent or delay the disease in some people, it’s likely that many individuals may need a combination of treatments based on their own risk factors.
Researchers are studying many approaches to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. Some focus on drugs, some on lifestyle or other changes. Let’s look at the most promising interventions to date and what we know about them.
How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine if a person with thinking or memory problems has Alzheimers disease. To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person experiencing symptoms, as well as 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.
- Administer a psychiatric evaluation to determine if depression or another mental health condition is causing or contributing to a person’s symptoms.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Order blood, urine, and other standard medical tests that can help 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 rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
Doctors may want to repeat these tests to help best determine how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time. The tests can also help diagnose other causes of memory problems, 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.
People with memory problems should return to the doctor every six to 12 months.
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Variables Impacting Life Expectancy Calculations
Gender. Men dont live as long with Alzheimers as women. A study of more than 500 people diagnosed with Alzheimers disease between 1987 and 1996 found that women with Alzheimers live, on average, 20% longer than men. Age. Someone diagnosed at 65 lives an average of about eight years, while someone over 90 who gets a diagnosis typically lives about three-and-a-half more years. Strength of Symptoms at Diagnosis. If someone is showing especially severe dementia-related problems at the time of diagnosis, this usually leads to an earlier death. Someone who wanders, is prone to falling, and experiences urinary incontinence , will typically not live as long. A lower mini-mental state examination score at the time of diagnosis will also not live as long. Other Health Problems. A person with a history of heart problems or asthma or diabetes, for example, will not live as long as someone without those underlying issues.
Alzheimers Diagnosis And Omega
While omega-3 has shown benefits in improving cellular and cognitive function in patients who have not yet been diagnosed with Alzheimers, what does the research show for treating people with a diagnosis?
Omega-3 has shown a positive impact in reversing or halting the progression of Alzheimers. This supplement not only helps in preventing further cognitive decline in Alzheimers patients but also prevents typical age-related cognitive impairment.
The main compound of omega-3 – docosahexaenoic acid – shows strong links to the likelihood of someone developing a neurological or psychiatric illness. Adequate and daily intake of omega-3 through foods or supplements can reduce this risk.
In another study, omega-3 was used in memory tests of Alzheimers patients. Scientists administered various tests and measures for assessing patients memory and recall by drawing spinal fluid.
The group who started taking omega-3 supplements showed stability in their memory tests, while the control group suffered significant cognitive declines.
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Tips For Caregivers And Families Of People With Dementia
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A caregiver, sometimes referred to as a caretaker, refers to anyone who provides care for another person. Millions of people living in the United States take care of a friend or family member with Alzheimers disease or a related dementia. Sometimes caregivers live with the person or nearby, other times they live far away. For many families, caring for a person with dementia isnt just one persons job, but the role of many people who share tasks and responsibilities. No matter what kind of caregiver you are, taking care of another person can be overwhelming at times. These tips and suggestions may help with everyday care and tasks.
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.
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Tip : Take Steps To Slow The Advancement Of Symptoms
Even when youve been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease or dementia, there is still a great deal that you can do to slow its progress. The same healthy lifestyle changes and mental stimulation techniques that are used to prevent or delay the onset of dementia can also be effective in slowing the progression of the disease and maintaining your independence for longer.
1. Get moving. Regular exercise stimulates the brains ability to maintain old connections, make new ones, and slow deterioration of your cognitive abilities.
2. Reach out to others. The more you connect face-to-face with others, the more you engage socially, the better your cognitive function will be.
3. Eat well. Eating a brain-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can help reduce inflammation, protect neurons, and promote better communication between brain cells.
4. Seek mental stimulation. By continuing to learn new things and challenge your brain, you can strengthen your cognitive skills and stay mentally active for longer.
5. Improve your sleep. Getting quality sleep can flush out brain toxins and avoid the build-up of damaging plaques.
6. Manage stress. Unchecked stress takes a heavy toll on the brain, shrinking a key memory area, hampering nerve cell growth, and worsening Alzheimers symptoms. Relaxation practices and other stress management techniques can help you ease the tension and regain control.
Planning For The Future
Planning early makes it easier for someone with younger onset dementia to manage their financial, legal and medical affairs now and in the future.
If you have been diagnosed with younger onset dementia, it is important to make important decisions while you still can and while you are legally competent to sign any documents.
Things to think about include:
- your living arrangements into the future
- who can have access to your financial accounts
- having joint signatures on all financial accounts
- arranging when and how you will access your finances
- talking to a financial adviser
- sorting out superannuation, health and income insurance
- writing or updating your will
If you have been diagnosed with dementia, its important to nominate a trusted person to manage your affairs in the future. You can do this through an Enduring Power of Attorney .
A financial EPA enables a nominated person to look after your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. A medical EPA covers only medical decisions. The laws regarding EPAs vary between states and territories, so it’s important to seek legal advice before the agreement is completed, or if you are moving interstate.
Some states also have medical guardianship . This allows someone to choose a person to make medical decisions for them. For more information on guardianship and administrators, visit the My Aged Care website.
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Treatable Causes Of Dementia
There are many conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms that can sometimes be stopped or even reversed with treatment. These conditions include:
- Side effects of certain medicines
- Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression
- Certain vitamin deficiencies
- Blood clots, tumors, or infections in the brain
- Delirium, a sudden state of confusion and disorientation
- Head injury, such as a concussion from a fall or accident
- Thyroid, kidney, or liver problems
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain
Talk with your doctor if you experience serious memory problems or other symptoms of dementia. A proper diagnosis is important to getting the right treatment.
How To Diagnose Alzheimers Vs Dementia
Alzheimers is a progressive and fatal brain disorder. Dementia is not a specific disease, but an umbrella term that defines a syndrome and used to refer to a specific group of symptoms related to a decline in mental ability. Alzheimers is one of the most common causes of dementia. Both Alzheimers and dementia are diagnosed using a variety of different assessments and tests, including a physical exam, lab tests, cognitive and neuropsychological tests, and an analysis of changes in behavior.
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How Is It Diagnosed
In most cases where autopsy results show the presence of mixed dementia, the individuals in those cases were originally diagnosed with one specific type of dementia during their life, most commonly Alzheimers disease. The most common coexisting condition was previously undetected blood clots or other evidence of vascular dementia. Lewy bodies were the second most common coexisting condition.
Life Expectancy By Stage Of The Disease
The average number of years a person lives with Alzheimers disease is about 10. Keep in mind, however, that theres a gap between when symptoms begin and when a diagnosis is actually sought. The first symptoms of Alzheimers diseaseforgetting names, misplacing items, difficulty concentrating at work or performing simple tasksarrive an average of almost three years before the diagnosis is made.
The scale most commonly used by health professionals for the stages of dementia is the Global Deterioration Scale , also called the Reisberg Scale. The table below shows a patients average life expectancy by the stage of dementia. These are averages based on studies of large numbers of Alzheimers patients.
|Life Expectancy By Stage of Alzheimers / Dementia|
|Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline||1.5 to 2.5 years||2.5 years or less|
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Targets Of Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Research
Researchers are exploring these and other interventions that may help prevent, delay, or slow Alzheimer’s dementia or age-related cognitive decline. Other research targets include:
- New drugs to delay onset or slow disease progression
- Diabetes treatment
- Blood pressure- and lipid-lowering treatments
- Sleep interventions
- Vitamins such as B12 plus folic acid supplements and D
- Combined physical and mental exercises
Why Dementia Affects Balance
Memory problems and difficulty thinking are the side effects most commonly associated with Alzheimers disease and similar dementias, but loss of balance is a scary issue that caregivers should be prepared for, especially in later stages.
In earlier stages, or even before other dementia symptoms develop, losing balance while standing or walking can indicate an increased potential to develop Alzheimers. It may also be a sign that your loved one is suffering from a kind of dementia other than Alzheimers, like vascular dementia.
The part of the brain that controls body movements is the cerebellum, located near the back base of the skull. Diseases that affect the cerebellum are likely to affect balance, and certain types of dementia fit the bill. Vascular dementia, for instance, is different from Alzheimers disease because the illness is caused by a lack of blood flow carrying oxygen to the cerebellum. Some people with vascular dementia will actually experience feelings of vertigo before they have trouble with thinking and memory.
There is also a specific kind of Alzheimers, called posterior cortical atrophy, which targets the cerebellum and, as a result, affects balance. People with posterior cortical atrophy can lose their sense of knowing which direction is up, are more prone to dizziness, and may be frequently leaning to one side.
Did You Know?
Medications that Impact Balance
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Reduce Your Risk For Alzheimers
Keep in mind that your risk for Alzheimers disease can increase with poor dieting and a lack of exercise. Incorporating adequate omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can improve your neurological health. It can also act as an anti-inflammatory to reduce oxidative stress and the build-up of amyloid plaques.
Contact us today for nutritional consulting or creating a healthy meal plan. You can be on your way toward a healthier lifestyle sooner than you think!
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Please consult with your doctor before starting any new mental or physical health improvement program. The advice I offer is not intended to replace that of your medical practitioner. I am not a medical professional, nor am I qualified to diagnose, cure treat, or prevent disease. The advice I provide on this website is intended for a broad and diverse audience, and as such, deals with general lifestyle concepts, not specific healthcare advice. This material disclaims any liability or loss in connection with the advice expressed herein.