Signs You Have Alzheimer's Right Now
Alzheimer's affects almost 6 millions Americans and is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as "a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment." The CDC adds, "The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060." Although Alzheimer's commonly affects the older community, the disease can start in a person's 30s. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with Dr. Kendal Maxwell, PhD Clinical Neuropsychologist who explained the signs of Alzheimer's disease to watch out for and how to tell the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer's. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Trouble with Language
Dr. Maxwell explains, "Difficulty with word finding such as what an object is called. Individuals with Alzheimer's present with these difficulties given the location of greatest atrophy in the brain is an area closely related to this language ability."
According to Dr. Maxwell, "Individuals with Alzheimer's have loss in the hippocampus which is an area of the brain related to being able to store and retrieve new memories. Therefore, individuals with Alzheimer's have trouble remembering new memories (e.g. anterograde amnesia), while being able to hold onto old memories until late stages of the disease process."
"This is closely related to difficulty with memory, but these individuals have trouble learning in which they may be provided the same information several times but have little to no learning curve over several repetitions," Dr. Maxwell states.
Reduced Semantic Knowledge
Dr. Maxwell says, "An example of this is not being able to recall the many types of ice cream flavors there are. This is again, closely related to the left temporal region being impacted the most which causes language changes."
Not Aware of Changes in their Behavior
People with Alzheimer's have a, "Reduced insight into these issues," Dr. Maxwell reminds us. "Other family members may notice their difficulties more so than they do and they may also become somewhat defensive about their mistakes."
Who is at Risk for Alzheimer's?
Dr. Maxwell says, "The largest risk factor for Alzheimer's is being older than 65 years of age with average onset of Alzheimer's presenting around the age of 74. Other risk factors include being African American, female, having a history of moderate to severe traumatic brain injury during their lifetime, as well as having certain genetic factors such as Apoe4 or a family history of dementia, and cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes and/or hypertension."
Dr. Maxwell explains, "Preventing Alzheimer's disease begins early such as in your 20s and 30s by at minimum exercising for 30 minutes 3 times a week at vigorous pace, eating diets such as the MIND, DASH, or Mediterranean diet, engaging in good sleep hygiene with attempts to get 8 hours of sleep nightly when possible, and reducing stress when possible which could include engaging in meditation or psychotherapy regularly if needed. Additionally, keeping an adequate social circle can also help at reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness that can increase your chances of developing a neurodegenerative condition."
What Causes Alzheimer's?
"Alzheimer's is caused by changes to the brain which include neuronal loss, neurofibrillary tangles, and amyloid plaques that accumulate in various areas of the brain with initial focus on areas related to memory, but as the disease progresses, neurofibrillary tangles can be found throughout other regions of the brain," says Dr. Maxwell.
Difference Between Normal Aging and Alzheimer's?
Dr. Maxwell states, "When individuals normally age, they may have slight changes to how quickly they can think and complete tasks, as well as occasional difficulties with recalling names of people or words, and they may become more rigid in their thought process with reducing hearing and vision. Furthermore, they may have some difficulty with learning new things, but if given repeated trials they usually can hold onto information and learn new tasks. The difference from this and Alzheimer's is that memory issues begin to cause a negative impact to their daily functioning.. They may no longer be able to drive because they get lost or confused easily, they may leave the stove on while cooking or other hazardous missteps in their day, and they may begin to make mistakes with their finances or medications because they forget to complete tasks."