Alzheimers disease can be described as a progressive and irreversible condition that causes a slow destruction or degeneration of the brain cells, resulting in a gradual loss of memory. This symptom of accelerated memory loss is what we are most familiar with. A diagnosis of Alzheimers for you or a family member can be quite devastating and hard to deal with. The idea of having our memories slowly disappearing is equated with a slow loss of self. Our memories are the fabric that binds our social relationships, and the prospect of this loss of connection is unimaginable. This is why Alzheimers is such a dreaded disease. While the condition may not reversible, there are measures that you can take to put the brakes on this degenerative process. New and ongoing studies into the condition offer us more hope of restricting the damage, with the help of both conventional and alternative treatments.
Alzheimers is one of the most common causes of dementia around the world. Dementia refers to the loss of cognitive functioning, where a person can lose the ability to think, recall, remember or even reason. While anyone can experience memory loss as a part of the ageing process, the effect of dementia is such that it affects a persons daily life and activities. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that people suffering from this disease do not even have the ability to carry out the easiest and simplest of tasks. This condition usually affects seniors and makes its first appearance once an individual is past the age of 60. Right from the time a person is affected by Alzheimers disease, the brain cells begin to degenerate and die, because of which there is a steady decline in brain function and memory.
The exact factors that trigger the onset of Alzheimers disease are still not clear. Clinical studies show that the brain could undergo damage caused by this condition for around 10 to 20 years before any of the signs become evident. There is an area in the brain known as Entorhinal Cortex and the tangles usually begin to develop in that area. At the same time, this condition could also lead to the formation of plaque in the other areas of the brain. As higher amounts of these tangles and plaques develop in areas of the brain, the healthy neurons may lose their efficiency. This affects their ability to communicate with each other or function in any way, because of which they eventually die. The damage could also spread to a structure which is quite close and is known as the hippocampus. This structure is important in the formation of memories and therefore, any damage to it can affect the ability to remember even the most basic things. Since it is a progressive disease, you may notice the symptoms in different stages and the signs may not be severe enough to cause concern in the initial stages. However, as a person reaches the final stage of Alzheimers disease, the brain tissues may have shrunk a lot and the condition will be quite evident.
This condition got its name from Dr. Alois Alzheimer in the year 1906. Although estimates may vary a bit, studies indicate that as many as 5.1 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimers disease. There is no cure for this condition as yet and patients suffer from the adverse symptoms of Alzheimers disease on a lifelong basis.
Symptoms of Alzheimer
In the initial stages of Alzheimers disease, the symptoms you may notice usually include forgetfulness and mild confusion. As time goes by, the disease has a stronger impact on the patients memory, ability to speak, writing skills, problem solving capability and overall judgment. In case you are suffering from this disease, you may even realize that your memory is not as good as it used to be, or that organizing your thoughts is a bigger challenge than it has ever been before. However, several patients do not realize that there is something wrong with them, even though their family members, close friends and colleagues begin to notice the difference. Given below are some of the signs that are usually evident in Alzheimers disease:
Memory: Everyone forgets things once in a while and so, if you often forget where you kept your keys, or even the names of your co-workers, it is regarded as being quite normal. However, people who suffer from Alzheimers disease forget things way more often and may repeat statements or questions over and over. They could forget something important that you mentioned to them or might not even show up for an important appointment, because they didnt remember. Over a period of time they can forget the names of family members and everyday objects.
Disorientation: Wondering what the time could be, or even what day it is, isnt uncommon at all. However, Alzheimers patients could also lose sense of what year they are in, their location or the circumstances of their lives. Since this condition affects other brain abilities too, the patients may not even be able to understand their surroundings and they may feel lost in familiar places too.
Speaking and Writing: Alzheimers patients usually find it difficult to use the right words for many objects and activities, because of which taking part in a conversation could be a huge challenge. Gradually, the ability to read and write is also affected.
Thinking and Reasoning: Difficulties in thinking and concentrating usually arise, especially when it comes to abstract concepts. Balancing checkbooks, managing finances, paying bills and keeping track of appointments can become a major challenge for Alzheimers patients. This is because they may not be able to recognize numbers. Minor everyday issues may also become a grave challenge.
Personality and Behavioral Changes: This condition has a significant impact on how a person feels or acts. People who suffer from Alzheimers disease usually experience aimless wandering, aggressiveness, irritability, distrust, social withdrawal, depression, sleeping problems, obstinacy, mood swings and increased anxiety.
Causes of Alzheimer
The exact causes that lead to the formation of plaques and tangles in the brain are still a mystery to most medical researchers and scientists. However, it is believed that this disease is a result of genetic, environmental and lifestyle related factors that have a slow impact over the brain, over a period of time. In a few instances, i.e., around 5% of the time, Alzheimers disease is the result of a particular genetic change which guarantees that the disease will be developed by a patient.
While the exact causes for Alzheimers disease have not been understood completely, the effect of the disease on the brain is quite evident. The disease damages the brain and kills the cells. Therefore, studies indicate that a brain affected by Alzheimers disease has fewer cells than a healthy brain. The connections between the surviving cells are also a lot fewer. Over a period of time, the brain may also shrink.
Remedies for Alzheimer
Even though there is no cure for Alzheimers disease, patients are advised to undergo treatment to help them with memory symptoms and other changes, for a while. There are two types are medicines that are prescribed for this purpose. However, in addition to medication, it is important for family members and close associates to create a supportive environment for the patient. This may include:
It is also important for Alzheimers patients to follow a regular exercise routine. A 30-minute walk each day can help improve physical and mental health. However, a patient should be made to carry some kind of identification and address at all times. Alternately, chair exercises or a stationary bike may also be a good idea. Being socially active is also a good form of exercise for the brain.
Alternate healers usually recommend a combination of herbal mixtures, vitamins or other supplements to prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimers disease to some extent. Some of the vitamins and herbs recommended include Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Gingko and Huperzine A. However, there are no clinical studies to support the benefits of taking any additional supplements, vitamins and herbs. Therefore, it is important to ensure that any of these additional supplements do not interfere with regular Alzheimers medication, by checking with a doctor and getting an approval.
Diet for Alzheimer
Many Alzheimers patients forget to take their meals on time or just lose interest in eating. Those who live along and take care of themselves also show a tendency of preparing an unhealthy combination of foods. Therefore, it is common for them to suffer from several different types of digestive problems.
It is important for family members and caregivers for Alzheimers patients to make sure that they eat regular meals throughout the day and on time. In addition to plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low fat dairy products, it is important for them to consume high calorie and healthy shakes or smoothies. While many milkshakes and protein powders are easily available at stores, it is best to prepare them at home. A lot of liquid is also very important for Alzheimers patients. However, coffee, aerated drinks or other caffeinated items should be strictly avoided at all times.
Before making any dietary changes to a diet, it is advisable to check with a doctor and get an approval. This is all the more important for those people suffering from preexisting medical conditions like Alzheimers disease.
Suggestion for Alzheimer
Alzheimers disease is not just difficult for the patient, but also for the family members, relatives and other close associates, as dealing with a mixture of grief, fear, frustration, depression, uncertainty, anger and confusion is not very easy. The patient needs someone to listen to and reassure him or her, at all times.
It is absolutely essential that no changes are made to the patients prescribed medicines or their doses without checking with a doctor. It would make things much easier if the patients family got detailed information about the condition, from doctors, other patients families and support groups. Both Alzheimers patients as well as their families can benefit greatly by joining a support group or undergoing counseling.
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