VIVA Health: Alzheimer’s Awareness

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 12:11 PM CDT
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The following information was provided by VIVA Health:

Your mental and physical health are constantly changing, especially as you age. Some changes are more obvious, like weight gain or hair loss, while other changes, like those taking place in your brain, may be less noticeable. Your brain health is a very serious matter, and should be treated with as much care as your physical health. Dementia is defined as the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, and it even can be fatal, making awareness critical.

Q: What is Alzheimer’s disease?

A: Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, which gets worse over time and robs people of the ability to remember past events or recognize loved ones. It may become difficult for someone who has Alzheimer’s to communicate, think, recognize family or friends, or care for themselves. Unfortunately, the disease cannot be slowed, cured, or prevented.

Q: What are common symptoms?

A: Signs and symptoms of the disease may include memory loss, such as forgetting recently-learned information, repeating questions, or forgetting special dates that normally would not be missed. Other symptoms include challenges with planning or solving problems; difficulty completing familiar tasks; confusion with time or place as well as misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Those with Alzheimer’s may also have changes in their overall demeanor and mood, and because they struggle to hold conversations, withdrawal from normal activities is common.

Q: What causes this disease?

A: In recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimer’s and the momentum continues to grow. Still, experts don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimer’s, a genetic mutation may be the cause. Late-onset Alzheimer’s arises from a complex series of brain changes that may occur over decades. Most agree that the causes likely include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, but the importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s may differ from person to person.

Q: What treatment options are available?

A: Current approaches to treating Alzheimer’s focus on helping people maintain mental function, treating the underlying disease process, and managing behavioral symptoms. Several medications are approved to treat symptoms or modify coinciding behaviors, but medications that change the underlying disease process still are being tested. Adapting living situations to the needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease is an important part of any treatment plan. Caregivers can establish routines and minimize memory-demanding tasks.

If cognitive decline is suspected, it is important to speak with a physician because early detection matters. Receiving an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis may help lessen your worries and help you connect to the appropriate resources and treatment programs.

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