5 million Americans today may have Alzeheimer’s disease (AD). It is a form of dementia that results in progressive impairment of memory, language, judgment, and personality. Those who get AD before the age of 60 find the disease progresses rapidly: more commonly, AD, occurs in the elderly. Dying nerve cells accumulate and fragmented protein tangle around brain cells destroying nerve cells. This results in less chemicals available to send messages causing brain disconnection.
As most of us age, we become forgetful and have memory lapses. However. these mild cognitive impairments don’t interfere with our daily activities. It may take longer to perform more difficult tasks, we may forget certain recent events, find solving problems difficult, and multitasking becomes impossible. This does not result in Alzheimer’s disease.
In Alzheimer’s, finding the names of familiar objects becomes difficult, things are misplaced, we lose our way going home, lose some social skills, have personality changes, lose interest in things we previously enjoyed, developed a flat mood, no longer can balance a checkbook, have trouble performing thinking tasks and can’t learn new things.
As things get worse, one cannot take care of oneself, forgets details about current affairs, loses awareness of who they are, often wake up at night, forget things that happened in the past, have trouble reading and writing, can’t recognize dangerous situations, mispronounce words, use long words, speak in confusing sentences, become violent and argumentative, withdraw from others, hallucinate, and no longer can do basic things as eating, choosing the right clothes, and driving.
In severe AD: one can’t understand what is being said, can’t recognize family members, and are unable to perform basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, and bathing. Swallowing becomes aproblem and incontinence occurs.
In the early stages of dementia, MRI brain image scans may be normal. In later stages, an MRI may show a decrease in the size of different areas of the brain.
While the scans do not confirm the diagnosis of AD, they do exclude other causes of dementia (such as stroke and tumor).
There is no cure for AD. One can however manage the real problems of confusion, agitation, and sleep problems. Caregivers can be supported by modifying the home environment. Drugs as: Donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Razadyne, formerly called Reminyl) affect the level of a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine are of very little help. They tend to cause indigestion, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and fatigue. Other medications as anti-histamine is, sleeping pills, antidepressants, all tend to make confusion worse.
In the final few months, patients become immobile and totally disabled. They die from an infection or failure of body systems. Muscle contractures occur (loss of ability to move joints because of loss of muscle function), and infection (particularly urinary tract infections and pneumonia), occur in the end stages of AD.
Prevention of Alzheimer’s
People with mild cognitive impairment can reduce dementia by 85% by drinking one glass of wine daily. This may protect the brain from strokes and vascular dementia. Urology, May 22 2007,
Those with mild cognitive impairment often go on and develop Alzheimer’s. People with below normal cognitive testing have mild cognitive impairment and 10 to 20% progress to dementia each year. It is a manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease. The pathological changes occur several years before we recognize this mild cognitive impairment. Those who had memory impairment are at the highest risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. ScienceDaily (Apr. 6, 2010) —
Eating baked or broiled fish weekly can help your brain center reduce your risk of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. MRIs show better preservation of gray matter volume.
Gray matter volume is crucial to your health. If it’s high, your brain functions well. If it’s low, your brain cells are shrinking. Greater cortical gray matter volume reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by 500%. Gray matter neurons can become larger and healthier and the brain then becomes resistant to Alzheimer’s. Eating fish will increase your levels of cognition, help you focus better on tasks, and hel commit information to short-term memory better. This working memory is often destroyed by Alzheimer’s. Fried fish, unfortunately does not result in an increase in brain volume. ScienceDaily (Nov. 30, 2011)
Support groups are helpful.Alzheimer's disease support groups.