Alzheimers Vs Dementia: Whats The Difference
Both Alzheimers disease and dementia involve cognitive decline, but not all dementia patients have Alzheimers. Dementia is one of the main symptoms of Alzheimers. Alzheimers is the most common type of dementia.
Alzheimers disease is caused by misshapen protein structures in the brain . Over time, the malformations kill the brain cells theyre in, limiting cognitive function.
Because Alzheimers is defined by these microscopic changes in the brain, doctors cant say for certain whether a person has Alzheimers without performing an autopsy.
The early symptoms of Alzheimers disease include:
- Difficulty finding the right words when speaking or writing
- Getting lost easily
When a patient starts to develop noticeable symptoms, Alzheimers medications may help. However, making diet and lifestyle changes seems to be just as effective, if not more so.
Researchers Continue To Seek Answers
The idea of Alzheimers as a metabolic disease that affects the brain, and Alzheimers markers such as glucose metabolism, have led scientists in various directions. Besides the Mediterranean diet and its variations, they are looking at other diets as well as individual foods and nutrients.
For example, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that prompts the production of ketones, chemicals that help brain cells work. Studies show that this diet may affect gut bacteria in distinctive ways in people with and without cognitive impairment, and may help brain cells better use energy, improving their overall function.
Researchers are seeking answers to these questions:
- Which foods are critical to brain health and should be included in diet-based interventions?
- Which groups of people are most likely to benefit from dietary interventions targeting prevention of dementia and cognitive decline?
- Can dietary interventions introduced in midlife lead to better outcomes?
These clinical trials are recruiting participants to test dietary interventions:
To learn more or to find a trial near you, visit the Alzheimers.gov Clinical Trials Finder.
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Risk Factors For Dementia & Alzheimers
Scientists know that genetics, environment, and lifestyle affect your risk of developing Alzheimers disease and dementia.
The factors that put you at higher risk include:
- Age: As you get older, youre at greater risk of developing dementia and Alzheimers.
- Genetics: If you have a family member with dementia, you are more likely to have dementia, too. Additionally, having certain versions of genes, like apolipoprotein E 4 , increases your risk of developing Alzheimers.
- Education: People with less education have a higher chance of getting Alzheimers.
- High risk for cardiovascular disease: The same factors that affect your heart health, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, also increase your Alzheimers risk.
- Head trauma: Youre more likely to develop Alzheimers if you suffer a head injury that makes you lose consciousness.
- Alcohol abuse: Patients with alcohol-use disorder are more likely to have impaired cognition and develop Alzheimers disease.
- Sleep issues: Older adults who experience constant interrupted sleep experience Alzheimers disease more frequently.
- Poor diet: Eating the wrong foods can make it more likely that youll develop dementia or Alzheimers.
If you have one or more of these risk factors, you are not destined to have Alzheimers. There are still things you can do to lower your risk and prevent disease.
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High Blood Pressure And Dementia Risk
High blood pressure can cause blood clots in arteries, blocking blood flow to the brain. Stroke and the loss of brain cells may follow, and the brain could subsequently shrink.
People with high blood pressure in midlife are more likely to develop dementia later in life .
Heres what you can do:Make sure you know your blood pressure if you are 40, Livingston said. The Lancet team recommended aiming for a systolic blood pressure the pressure of the blood against artery walls as the heart beats of 130mm Hg or less in midlife, though Larson cautioned against reaching an overly low blood pressure.
Experts say managing stress and sleeping well, maintaining a stable weight and eating a healthy diet of less sugary foods, exercising regularly and refraining from smoking can help control blood pressure.
Read more about past research on the link between hypertension and dementia, and insights on how hypertensive treatment may reduce risk of cognitive decline
Healthy Hearts Mean Healthy Brains
We know that certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity can increase our risk of dementia. For some time these risk factors were commonly associated with vascular dementia. We now know that they are also associated with the development of Alzheimers disease.
Much of what we know now to be healthy for our heart is also healthy for our brain, so many of the dietary messages we have been encouraged to follow for a healthy heart will also apply to the health of our brains.
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Whats Next With Dementia Prevention Research
More research is needed to find ways to help prevent Alzheimers and related dementias. Future research may determine that specific interventions are needed to prevent or delay the disease in some people, but others may need a combination of treatments based on their individual risk factors. Understanding risk factors and choices you can make now is important for both your present and future health. In addition to this website, consider the resources listed below to learn more.
You can also help researchers learn more about preventing dementia by participating in clinical trials and studies. Search the Alzheimers.gov Clinical Trials Finder to find studies that need volunteers.
Modifying Disease Course: 3
In addition to the pharmacological interventions designed specifically to ameliorate the symptom progression in AD various other interventions have been suggested once a diagnosis of dementia or cognitive decline has been reached. These can be divided into three groups. Nonpharmacological interventions, the pharmacological treatment of risk factors , and the use of other drugs or products not licensed specifically for use in dementia, for example nootropics.
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Body Risk Factors That Can Be Controlled
- alcohol too much alcohol can damage your brain and lead to an increased risk of developing dementia
- diet the available evidence suggests a healthy diet can play a role in promoting brain health
- physical activity regular physical exercise is associated with better brain function and reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Natural Remedies For Dementia And Alzheimers Treatment Option #: Mineral Supplements
Minerals are commonly referred to as the sparks of life.They are what keep our body battery going and keep it charged. Minerals arealso needed by the brains electrical circuit to function properly. You maynot know this but your brain is one incredible and very intricate circuitboard. Every time you think a thought , little sparks and electrical currents are busyracing and crisscrossing each other in a dazzling and spectacular light show. Infact, while youre brains at work it’s actually producing enough electricity topower a light bulb!
So how it basically works is when you think a thought, that particular thought is then transferred or relayed to the area of the brainthat needs it by sparks or electricity. And minerals are one of the crucialcomponents that make this all happen and make the process run smoothly. Butwhen your brain lacks the minerals it needs for this process to work correctly,these sparks begin to jump in the wrong places. Or even worse, they dontjump at all! This is the beginnings and eventual progression of diseases suchas Alzheimers.
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Limit Your Brains Exposure To Alcohol
The American Addiction Centers reports that drinking alcohol can increase dementia risk. A study found that people who drink 5 or more bottles of beer in one sitting were 3 times more likely to have dementia by age 65.
Action Strategy: Binge drinking is hard on your brain. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can stop your neurons from re-growing. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to one glass of wine or other favorite drink. If you are concerned about your own drinking or a loved ones, seek professional help.
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Medical Options For Treating Dementia
There are various pharmaceutical medications availablewhich are designed to treat one or more of the symptoms. Antidepressants, moodstabilizers and antipsychotics are the most common. But all of these drugs comewith risks, many of which are severe. A new study from the University ofMichigan Health System found that medications for dementia may significantly increasepatients health risks. Whats more, the risk increases with the dosage of thesemedications, along with drug interactions . Cindy D. Marshall, MD, medicaldirector of the Baylor Memory Center in Dallas, Texas, talks about some of therisks of these medications…
“TheFDA issued a 2005 black block warning on the use of antipsychotics in dementiapatients due to mounting evidence showing increased mortality. The mechanism ofdeath is not specifically defined in the data, but typically includescerebrovascular events , cardiovascular events and infections .” 1
Other psychiatric medications such as the mood stabilizer,valproic acid also carry higher risksand much less benefit, according to Dr. Maust and his research team. With thenewer and more commonly used antipsychotics, the risk definitely increases withhigher dosages.
In addition to these, you have cholinergic treatments and memantine treatments, which are designed to stabilize the symptoms ofAlzheimers and Parkinson’s disease. However, these have been found to have limited ability andonly work for a short while.
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Can Diet Prevent Or Slow Down Dementia
We hear so much from the media about what we should or should not eat. One day blueberries are the new so-called superfood that will reduce our risk of developing dementia, the next it is the humble plum.
But what information can we rely on to be accurate? Can the food we eat really reduce our risk of developing dementia? If a person has dementia, can their diet or use of supplements influence how they experience dementia or its progression?
Knowing what and what not to eat is so confusing, the messages seem to change daily!
Person with dementia
The brain requires a regular supply of nutrients in our diet to function and remain healthy. There is growing recognition that what we eat affects the way our brains work and our mental health, as well as our physical health.
Traditionally research undertaken to investigate the connection between diet, cognitive function and risk of dementia has primarily focused on the impact of individual nutrients on brain health. Those nutrients commonly researched include: vitamins B6, B12, C, E and folic acid, as well as omega 3 essential fatty acids. The outcome of such research has been inconclusive and thus guidelines to advise on specific nutrient intakes have not been developed. In this feature well explore some of the ongoing research on this topic.
Reminiscence And Life Story Work
Reminiscence work involves talking about things and events from your past. It usually involves using props such as photos, favourite possessions or music.
Life story work involves a compilation of photos, notes and keepsakes from your childhood to the present day. It can be either a physical book or a digital version.
These approaches are sometimes combined. Evidence shows that they can improve mood and wellbeing. They also help you and those around you to focus on your skills and achievements rather than on your dementia.
You’ll find more details about these treatments in the Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia guide.
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Hearing Loss And Dementia Risk
People with hearing loss in midlife are at a higher risk of dementia. Older adults with hearing problems also have higher odds of dementia except for those who use hearing aids. socially isolating, Larson said. Social isolation and inability to engage with others in speech and listening has a detrimental effect on maintaining brain reserve.
Heres what you can do:To prevent hearing loss, Larson urged people to avoid excessive noise. Those who have hearing difficulties should seek testing and, if appropriate, use a hearing aid.
Read more about past research on the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline
Treatment For Dementia Behaviors
Treatment for dementia behaviors like mood changes, sleep problems, and aggression may include a combination of approaches.
- Behavior management strategies can help caregivers provide a more structured environment, identify and avoid triggers for problematic behaviors, and learn how to gently redirect their family members attention. Doctors generally prefer to try non-drug strategies for difficult dementia behaviors first, Hashmi says.
- Medications such as sleep aids, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, anticonvulsants, or antipsychotics may help control symptoms in some people. However, these medications can have serious side effects, so its important to discuss their safety and risks with an expert, says Hashmi. As geriatricians, we try to use these medications sparingly, he says. They need to be matched to the behavior. Its not one size fits all.
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The Importance Of Vascular Health
At present, researchers are still trying to understand the causes of Alzheimers disease and how to treat it.
But, vascular causes of dementia are another story. Vascular disease can cause or worsen dementia. Diseased blood vessels, along with high blood pressure, can cause tiny areas of bleeding or blocked blood flow to the brain silent strokes that may not even cause noticeable symptoms.
But when these small areas of brain injury happen over and over again, a person can develop problems with memory, gait, balance and other brain functions. Researchers are exploring the role of vascular disease in the development of Alzheimers dementia in particular, but its not yet clear if or how this occurs.
Taking steps to improve the health of your blood vessels involves lifestyle changes. Since brain changes can start decades before dementia symptoms appear, the earlier you begin preserving your vascular health, the better for your brain.
Heres a bonus: Improving blood vessel health helps you avoid stroke, heart attack and other serious diseases.
It’s been estimated that one in three cases of dementia is preventable. You cant do anything right now to stop or reverse the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimers disease, but you can do something about hypertension and vascular disease risk factors.
Vascular Risk Factors And Dementia Prevention
Vascular disease can predispose to the development of dementia syndromes, including vascular dementia and AD. Therefore, the amelioration of predisposing conditions for vascular pathology, such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes, may be an important target for dementia prevention.
Studies have also examined the potential role of interventions for dyslipidemia, but there is currently limited evidence to support their role in dementia prevention. Prospective studies have found an association of lipid-lowering drugs, and in particular statins, with decreased risk for MCI and dementia, and this association may be independent of other vascular risk factors. Despite these encouraging reports, RCTs to date have shown contradictory results and a recent systematic review reported no significant effect of statins on risk for cognitive decline or dementia., Further studies that control for concomitant vascular risk factors and other potential confounders will need to delineate the potential role of lipid-lowering interventions for dementia prevention.
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Mentally Challenge Your Brain
Use it or lose it is the key concept here. Challenging your brain with new activities can help build new brain cells and strengthen connections. These may not have impacts on memory, but there is some evidence it aids executive functions, such as decision-making and reasoning, and helps to process things faster.
Obesity And Dementia Risk
Research shows people who are obese are more likely to develop dementia later in life. Some researchers say obesity should be considered premature aging, as it is strongly linked to chronic health problems in old age.
According to Adesola Ogunniyi, an author of the report and a professor of medicine at University of Ibadan, Nigeria, obesity is a risk factor for chronic cardiovascular diseases, which damage blood vessels in the brain and reduce blood flow. This leads to a cascade of inflammation and oxidative stress an imbalance between oxygen-containing molecules and antioxidants which would eventually lead to the death of brain cells.
Heres what you can do:Ogunniyi recommended losing weight, avoiding excess calories and reducing sugary beverages along with staying active and exercising.
Read more about past research on the link between obesity in midlife, body mass index and dementia
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How Does Brain Activity Help
Studies of animals show that keeping the mind active may:
- Reduce the amount of brain cell damage that happens with Alzheimer’s
- Support the growth of new nerve cells
- Prompt nerve cells to send messages to each other
When you keep your brain active with exercises or other tasks, you may help build up a reserve supply of brain cells and links between them. You might even grow new brain cells. This may be one reason scientists have seen a link between Alzheimer’s and lower levels of education. Experts think the extra mental activity from education may protect the brain by strengthening connections between its cells.
Neither education nor brain exercises are a sure way to prevent Alzheimer’s. But they may help delay symptoms and keep the mind working better for longer.
Control Your Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is strongly associated with an increased risk of dementia. High blood pressure can damage tiny blood vessels in the parts of the brain responsible for cognition and memory. The latest American Heart Association guidelines class blood pressure readings of 130/80 mm Hg and above as the start of high blood pressure.
Check your blood pressure at home. A study in the Netherlands found that a large variation in blood pressure readings over a period of years was associated with an increased risk of dementia. Inexpensive monitors that wrap around your upper arm can help you keep track of your blood pressure throughout the day and pick up on any variations. Some devices even send the results to your phone so you can easily track your readings or share them with your doctor.
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