Mild forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, but some memory problems can be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to understand the risk factors and be able to recognize the symptoms that differentiate Alzheimer’s from normal memory loss.
The effects of Alzheimer’s can vary from person to person. Your loved one may be forgetful more often than usual. He or she may have trouble remembering important dates, concentrating on daily tasks, remembering where they put their belongings, or may even call things and people by the wrong name.
While we all deal with occasional forgetfulness or a misplaced item, if these issues are affecting your loved one’s ability to live, it may be time to consult a healthcare professional.
Additionally, although there is no definitive evidence about what can prevent Alzheimer’s or age-related cognitive decline, scientific research shows a connection between a healthy lifestyle and a reduction in the effects of Alzheimer’s. There currently is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but below Bayshore Memory Care offers a general synopsis of the disease and some healthy habits that can help slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is an age-related brain disease that gradually destroys a person’s memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest of tasks. Alzheimer’s can be serious and extremely frustrating for older adults, making it difficult to drive, shop or even hold a conversation. It is the most common cause of dementia, a loss of cognitive functioning and behavioral abilities so severe that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that takes years to progress, much like diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. There are risk factors that may increase or decrease a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s, such as:
Age: The risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after age 65. As seniors enter into their 80s, to 90s and beyond, it becomes even more prevalent.
Genetics: Scientists have found that most early-onset Alzheimer’s cases are caused by permanent changes in three known genes inherited from a parent. There are also a number of genes that may increase a person’s risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s.
Health and Lifestyle: Just as diet, frequency of physical activity, weight, and habits like smoking can greatly contribute to levels of risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, these factors can also potentially increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
What symptoms should I watch for?
The number of symptoms can vary. Here are some well-known signs to look for as well as a few of which you may not be aware:
- Memory loss is the most recognized symptom of Alzheimer’s, and can cause you to lose track of important names, dates and events.
- Difficulty planning and problem solving as well as following instructions and focusing on a specific task are typical signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
- Performing routine tasks like driving to a familiar location, or playing a favorite game, become more difficult.
- Alzheimer’s sufferers may become confused about their surroundings, causing disorientation and fear. It is not uncommon for someone with Alzheimer’s to get lost easily, forget where he or she is or forgot how they got there.
- A less familiar symptom includes changes in vision, making it difficult to read, affecting depth perception, and causing problems distinguishing between colors.
- Alzheimer’s patients often become frustrated over words and conversations, calling things by the wrong names (Aphasia), struggling to follow conversations, or repeating themselves.
- Alzheimer’s patients often misplace items or put them in unusual locations. It is also common for sufferers to forget doing so, or be embarrassed about their actions and even accuse others of taking things.
- Lapses in judgment are common, resulting in poor decisions, poor hygiene and/or dressing inappropriately for the weather.
- Social withdrawal and mood changes can cause patients to display a lack of motivation, have less interest in hobbies and show an affinity for more sedentary tasks like watching television or sleeping more than usual. He or she may also feel depressed or anxious and get upset more easily.
How can I help?
Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline currently have no known cure, but recent research raises hopes that one day it might be possible to delay, slow down, or even prevent the disease. For now, here are several steps you can take to keep your brain healthy and your body fit as well as contribute to advancing research.
- Exercise regularly. We know exercise and physical activity are good for your physical health, but it’s necessary for mental health as well. Research shows that exercise can stimulate your brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to healthy cognition.
- Eat your vegetables. Studies have found that a diet rich in vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, is associated with a reduced rate of cognitive decline.
- Be social, read and play games. Researchers have found a link between more frequent social activity and better cognitive function. Mentally stimulating activities such as reading books and magazines, attending lectures, and playing games can help keep the mind sharp.
- See a doctor. If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of Alzheimer’s, seek the consult of a neurologist or geriatrician to evaluate your mental health and provide you with a diagnosis and memory care treatments that may relieve symptoms.
- Join a research study. Help scientists, people with Alzheimer’s and their families by volunteering to participate in clinical trials and studies. Be sure to check with your doctor before doing so, as treatments and supplements may not be right for you or may interfere with other treatments that have been prescribed for you.
Bayshore Memory Care in Naples, Florida, is a state-of-the-art community designed solely for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. We combine the best of new design, personalized and specialized services, and high-end amenities in a refreshingly elegant setting. Our Heartfelt Connections™ Memory Care Program is nationally recognized for offering people with Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases that affect the mind, the care and resources they need to maintain physical and emotional well-being and a high quality of life.
The next level of senior living memory care is has arrived in Naples—it’s a beautiful place to live.
For more information regarding the services offered at Bayshore, visit our Contact Us page, or call 239-213-9370.
Sources: WebMD and National Institute on Aging
National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/introduction