What To Do If Youre Worried About Your Memory
If you suspect youre experiencing any warning signs of dementia , the first thing to do is see a physician. Dr. Scharre recommends asking for a cognitive assessment at your annual physical so your results can be compared year-over-year and declines can be identified and addressed right awayjust like a colonoscopy, blood pressure screening, or cholesterol testing.
As with any medical condition, typically the earlier you identify it, the more options you have for treatment and typically the better you do, he says. Some forms of dementia have treatable causes while others like Alzheimers are also treatable, just not reversible or curable. Thatnew medication the FDA approved for Alzheimers, for example, only works in the mild cognitive impairment stagethats where its sweet spot is and if you start getting even a little bit more than mild dementia its not useful.
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:
The Difference In Treatments For Dementia Vs Alzheimers
It is unlikely that a single drug or treatment option can treat dementia or Alzheimers. Most therapies focus on providing individuals with a little extra comfort and control.
FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimers that may also treat dementia symptoms include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- Donepezil with memantine
Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine regulate different chemical messengers in the brain to address Alzheimers symptoms in different ways.
However, dementia may be caused by more than just Alzheimers disease. If a doctor identifies a different root cause for dementia symptoms, he/she may prescribe a different treatment for that root cause.
Examples of treatments for non-Alzheimers dementia:
- Stress relief, for stress-induced cognitive decline
- Antidepressants, for depression-induced cognitive decline
- Sleep medicine, for cognitive decline related to sleep disturbances
- Mold remediation, for mold toxicity-related cognitive decline
- Regular exercise, which is shown to reduce the risk of dementia
Sadly, once Alzheimers has been diagnosed, management and a potential slowdown or stopping of symptoms is the best goal doctors and patients can hope to achieve. However, by optimizing brain health earlier in life , your chances of preventing the disease from ever taking hold go up exponentially.
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Warning Signs And Symptoms
The symptoms of dementia range in severity, and they also vary depending on the area of the brain that the condition affects. The most
- walking around for no apparent reason
- inappropriate behaviors, such as social and sexual disinhibition
Symptoms can take time to appear, and significant damage may be present before a person visits a doctor. This may make treatment more challenging.
Are There Different Kinds Of Dementia
Alzheimers is the most common form of dementia but there are other kinds. It is even possible for people to have multiple kinds at once. These different forms include:
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare type of prion disease that destroys brain cells
- Huntingtons disease, which is caused by a single defective gene that leads to mood changes and other types of cognitive dysfunction
- Parkinsons disease, which affects the brain in the area that controls movement first and then spreads to affect other normal functions such as decision-making and task completion
- Vascular dementia caused by vascular disease, which inhibits the blood flow to the brain
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How Is Alzheimers Diagnosed And Treated
Doctors may ask questions about health, conduct cognitive tests, and carry out standard medical tests to determine whether to diagnose a person with Alzheimers disease. If a doctor thinks a person may have Alzheimers, they may refer the person to a specialist, such as a neurologist, for further assessment. Specialists may conduct additional tests, such as brain scans or lab tests of spinal fluid, to help make a diagnosis. These tests measure signs of the disease, such as changes in brain size or levels of certain proteins.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimers, though there are several medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can help manage some symptoms of the disease along with coping strategies to manage behavioral symptoms. In 2021, FDA provided accelerated approval for a new medication, aducanumab, that targets the protein beta-amyloid, which accumulates abnormally in the brains of people with Alzheimers. The new medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits, but has not yet been shown to affect clinical symptoms or outcomes, such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia.
Most medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of Alzheimers. Researchers are exploring other drug therapies and nondrug interventions to delay or prevent the disease as well as treat its symptoms.
Disproportionate Impact On Women
Globally, dementia has a disproportionate impact on women. Sixty-five percent of total deaths due to dementia are women, and disability-adjusted life years due to dementia are roughly 60% higher in women than in men. Additionally, women providethe majority of informal care for people living with dementia, accounting for 70% of carer hours.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers is a degenerative brain disease that causes the gradual cognitive decline of a patient afflicted with this disease. Alzheimers disease causes the death of the nerve cells in the brain and the loss or atrophying of brain tissue. This affects nearly all of the functions in the body.
The first sign of Alzheimers is a gradual loss of short-term memory. Its a progressive illness, which means it worsens over time. After a while, the symptoms can progress to:
- Agitation, anxiety, and suspicion
- Problems finding the right words
- Repetitive action or speaking patterns
- Trouble completing normal daily tasks
Eventually Alzheimers disease can cripple the brain so severely that the patients automatic functions of breathing or the heart beating are affected. As people weaken, secondary infections of the kidney and lungs, strokes, and other problems can occur.
In the final stage of the disease, Alzheimers patients are often unable to perform basic movements, communicate, or maintain control of their bodily functions. Many times, they cannot feed themselves or even chew and swallow food without help.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms & Treatment
Alzheimers is a progressive brain disease that is caused due to complex brain changes following cells to waste away, damage, and die. It slowly affects the brain causing impairment in cognitive abilities and memory. Alzheimers disease is progressive in nature and worsens over time.
The cause of this is unknown. In Alzheimers disease, there is a formation of abnormal structures in the brain, which blocks communication between the brain cells leading to the death of brain cells. It is not possible to diagnose someone with this disease with complete accuracy, but the patient is diagnosed as probable Alzheimers disease.
The symptoms of dementia and Alzheimers may overlap, but there are some differences. Similar symptoms include reduced ability to think, impairment in communication, and memory.
Symptoms of Alzheimers mostly include –
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How Are They Different
When a person is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. This is similar to someone who has a sore throat. Their throat is sore but it is not known what is causing that particular symptom. It could be allergies, a common cold or strep throat. Similarly, when someone has dementia they are experiencing symptoms without being told what is causing those symptoms.
Another major difference between the two is that Alzheimers is not a reversible disease. It is degenerative and incurable at this time. Some forms of dementia, such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are actually reversible or temporary.
Once a cause of dementia is found, appropriate treatment and counseling can begin. Until a proper diagnosis is made, the best approach to any dementia is communication, engagement and loving care.
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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What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers
If you have Alzheimers, the first symptom tends to be problems with your memory. You might also lose interest in your favourite activities or hobbies. Other early symptoms might include finding it difficult to do daily tasks. You may also befeeling more irritable than usual.
Alzheimers tends to develop gradually. Over time your symptoms tend to get worse, and new ones may appear.
As time goes on, you may get more confused, and struggle to plan and follow instructions. In the later stages of Alzheimers, more serious symptoms can appear. This can include hallucinations, having trouble swallowing and difficulty moving around.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimers
Memory problems are often one of the first signs of Alzheimers. Symptoms vary from person to person, and may include problems with:
- Word-finding, or having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age.
- Vision and spatial issues, like awareness of the space around them.
- Impaired reasoning or judgment, which can impact decisions.
Other symptoms may be changes in the persons behavior, including:
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
- Repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Wandering and getting lost.
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places.
- Mood and personality changes.
- Increased anxiety and/or aggression.
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What Is Known About Reducing Your Risk Of Alzheimers Disease
The science on risk reduction is quickly evolving, and major breakthroughs are within reach. For example, there is growing evidence that people who adopt healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise and blood pressure management can lower their risk of dementia. There is growing scientific evidence that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, may also reduce risk for subjective cognitive decline. To learn more about the current state of evidence on dementia risk factors and the implications for public health, please read the following summaries on Cardiovascular Health, Exercise, Diabetes and Obesity, Traumatic Brain Injury , Tobacco and Alcohol, Diet and Nutrition, Sleep, Sensory Impairment, and Social Engagement or the Compiled Report .
Treatment Of Alzheimers Vs Dementia
There is no cure for Alzheimers or Dementia. The focus is put on treatment to help manage symptoms. Treatments for Dementia depend on what type of Dementia is present, but the treatment for Alzheimers and Dementia will have some overlap.
Treatments for both Alzheimers and Dementia:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors- help with memory loss
- Glutamate inhibitors help aid with learning and memory
- Sleep Medication help manage trouble with sleeping
- Antidepressants Help fight depression from Alzheimers or Dementia
- Antipsychotic Medications help with behavioral changes
- Good Support system
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What Is The Burden Of Alzheimers Disease In The United States
- Alzheimers disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.2
- The 6th leading cause of death among US adults.
- The 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older.3
In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimers disease.1 This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimers disease were projected to fall between $159 and $215 billion.4 By 2040, these costs are projected to jump to between $379 and more than $500 billion annually.4
Death rates for Alzheimers disease are increasing, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates that are on the decline.5 Dementia, including Alzheimers disease, has been shown to be under-reported in death certificates and therefore the proportion of older people who die from Alzheimers may be considerably higher.6
How To Prevent Dementia
Just because your mom or brother developed a form of dementia, that doesnt mean youre destined to have it as well. The good news is that there are things that we can be doing in our life to reduce our risk, says Sexton. Keep activephysically active, cognitively active, and socially activeand reduce cardiovascular risk factors. Other known risk factors for dementia include obesity, hypertension, and diabetes so monitoring and managing those conditions can help. Of course, theres no guarantee, but its smart to do whatever you can now to lower the likelihood that you will suffer from dementia later.
This is an extremely active area of research, says Sexton. She says major discoveries are on the horizon in the areas of diagnostic blood tests for dementia, modifiable risk factors like air pollution, and risk factors that vary between different populations of people. So keep an eye out for news and check out these sites to see if you or a loved one qualify to participate in research studies.
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Dementia Vs Alzheimers: Differences Treatments Prevention
The difference between dementia and Alzheimers can be confusing, but it doesnt have to be.
Dementia is a group of symptoms that describes a progressive form of memory and skills decline. Alzheimers is a specific disease in your brain that causes dementia symptoms.
Dementia is not the same thing as preclinical Alzheimers, subjective cognitive impairment , or mild cognitive impairment . Clinicians use precise diagnostic criteria to distinguish between these other forms of cognitive decline, which may or may not lead to full-blown dementia.
Alzheimers is the most common form of dementia. Diseases like Alzheimers, vascular dementia, and Huntingtons disease are some common causes of dementia symptoms.
Alzheimers may be preventable with the right lifestyle changes. Other forms of dementia may also be prevented, but there is less evidence for prevention of the less common forms of dementia.
If caught early enough, changes to your diet, stress levels, and other parts of daily life may slow or stop cognitive decline. Dementia is not simply a done deal just because you get old. Cognitive decline is not a normal part of aging.
Around 50 million people around the world live with dementia symptoms, most of which are cases of Alzheimers disease. Life expectancy after Alzheimers diagnosis is 4-8 years.
Long before a diagnosis is given, the brain begins to change often during your 40s.
The earlier the detection, the easier it is to slow or stop cognitive decline.
Support For Family And Friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimers disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimers disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimers disease often need more intensive care.
You can find more information about caring for yourself and access a helpful care planning form.
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Common Forms Of Dementia
There are many different forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and may contribute to 60-70% of cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies , and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia . Dementia may also develop after a stroke or in the context of certain infections such as HIV, harmful use of alcohol, repetitivephysical injuries to the brain or nutritional deficiencies. The boundaries between different forms of dementia are indistinct and mixed forms often co-exist.
What Are The Stages Of Alzheimers
Alzheimers disease slowly gets worse over time. People with this disease progress at different rates and in several stages. Symptoms may get worse and then improve, but until an effective treatment for the disease itself is found, the persons ability will continue to decline over the course of the disease.
Early-stage Alzheimers is when a person begins to experience memory loss and other cognitive difficulties, though the symptoms appear gradual to the person and their family. Alzheimers disease is often diagnosed at this stage.
During middle-stage Alzheimers, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. People at this stage may have more confusion and trouble recognizing family and friends.
In late-stage Alzheimers, a person cannot communicate, is completely dependent on others for care, and may be in bed most or all the time as the body shuts down.
How long a person can live with Alzheimers disease varies. A person may live as few as three or four years if he or she is older than 80 when diagnosed, to as long as 10 or more years if the person is younger. Older adults with Alzheimers disease need to know their end-of-life care options and express their wishes to caregivers as early as possible after a diagnosis, before their thinking and speaking abilities fail.
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