3 Things You Didn't Know About Alzheimer's

3 Things You Didn't Know About Alzheimer's

More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's Disease, yet there is quite a bit of confusion about what causes the disease, how it is diagnosed, and what treatment options are most effective. It can be difficult to face any medical crisis, but Alzheimer's Disease is a particularly devastating diagnosis for the patient and their entire family. With no current cure or way to stop the disease from spreading, it can be overwhelming to hear that you or a loved one will be dealing with this progressive disease for years to come.

Alzheimer's is a brain disease and the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. Alzheimer's leads to a decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. Alzheimer's seems to attack those 65 years of age or older, but five percent of people with the disease are diagnosed in their earlier years. Early-onset Alzheimer's can be especially frustrating, but symptoms can vary greatly.

With a lot of information to go over, let's discuss a few things you may not know about Alzheimer's Disease:

  1. Experiencing memory loss does not mean you have Alzheimer's Disease.

    Let's face it, we've all had those days when we can't find the car keys, struggle to remember someone's name, or can't recall why you walked into a certain room. In the midst of an extra-busy or stressful day, we can have these moments of forgetfulness at any age. When you start to exhibit symptoms that occur regularly and affect your daily life, you may be experiencing some type of health issue.

    What symptoms indicate that your memory loss could be more serious?

    • Confusion with time or place
    • Problems writing or speaking
    • Asking the same question repeatedly
    • Forgetting the names of those closest to you
    • Increased anxiety, depression, or fear

    These signs of a more serious medical concern should compel you to visit your physician. Write down all of the changes you or your loved ones have noticed in your behavior. Your doctor should run tests to determine the cause of these changes. There are several conditions that could be causing changes in your cognitive abilities, including, but not limited to:

    • Thyroid problem
    • Vitamin deficiency
    • Adverse reaction to medications
    • Liver and kidney disease
    • Problems with hearing or vision
    • Hormone imbalance
    • Infection
    • Dementia

    Don't hesitate to visit your doctor and be honest about the signs and symptoms you've experienced due to your fear of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease or dementia. There are many health issues that could be causing changes in your memory or reasoning that can be addressed and reversed with the appropriate treatment.

  2. Despite the fact that there is no cure currently for Alzheimer's, early detection is vital to your long-term quality of life.

    You may be wondering what good it will do to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's if there's no cure or sure-fire treatment that will stop the progression of the disease. Early detection can be very important in planning ahead and determining what courses of action you can take to slow the progression and improve your quality of life. It also gives you more time to face the disease head-on and deal with the emotional challenge of a diagnosis.

    Most people experience an array of emotions when they receive the diagnosis – including anger, fear, sadness, isolation, depression, and denial. It's important to start getting the help you need as soon as possible to address your feelings and come to terms with your diagnosis. It can be challenging to accept a life-altering diagnosis of Alzheimer's, but getting support and help from medical professionals and loved ones will help you focus your attention on treatments available that may help you fight the disease.

    There are treatments being utilized to help slow the decline of cognitive functions, including five FDA-approved medications that can help manage symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease. Alternative therapies exist, but without FDA-approval, the effectiveness and safety of the treatments may not be certain. Talk to your physicians and pharmacists to discuss any risks in alternative treatments. If you qualify, there may be clinical trials you can participate in. As research teams attempt to create more improved treatments, you may be able to benefit from their studies. Discuss all of the risks with your physician before embarking on any clinical trials, and ask a loved one to accompany you to all your appointments. It always helps to have an extra set of eyes and ears on-hand, especially when they have your best interests at heart.

  3. There are no definitive causes for Alzheimer's, but there are factors that may contribute to your risk.

    When any disease expands in its scope over time, it is common to consider environmental factors that may have contributed to its growth. There has been research conducted over the past few decades to address concerns over exposure to materials we come into contact with every day. Let's try to separate fact from fiction on the following materials and their connection to Alzheimer's Disease:

    • Aluminum
    • Aspartame
    • Flu shots
    • Silver dental fillings

    Aluminum - Found in soda cans, pots, pans, or in products such as antiperspirants or antacids, this metal has been suspected to raise the risk of getting Alzheimer's, but studies have been unable to confirm any correlation.

    Aspartame - Complaints against aspartame, an artificial sweetener, were made in relation to several health issues, including Alzheimer's, but reports could not be confirmed to cause harm.

    Vaccinations – Flu shots and other vaccinations have been a source of concern for many researchers. There have been debates over the relationship between vaccinations and an array of autoimmune diseases, allergies, autism, and Alzheimer's disease, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have based their opinion on fifty years of research and conclude that the risk of vaccinations causing serious health problems is extremely low.

    Silver dental fillings – Most dentists prefer to use composite fillings, but silver fillings, with mercury, silver, and tin, were used for many years. Although the toxicity of mercury was a concern in regards to Alzheimer's and other conditions, the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that there is no connection between the silver fillings and neurological diseases.

What does cause Alzheimer's?

Although there are no definitive answers, there are certain factors that seem to indicate a greater risk of Alzheimer's, including age, race, family history, and genetics. Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer's are over the age of 65, and those with a parent or sibling with the disease are more likely to develop it. African-Americans and Latinos have exhibited higher risks for vascular disease and Alzheimer's. Scientists recognize the role genes play in the development of Alzheimer's Disease, but most experts believe that complex interactions are ultimately responsible.

Getting help

There are some great resources available to help you navigate the complicated world of Alzheimer's, and with constant efforts made by researchers, doctors, and scientists to eradicate the disease, staying current on available drug and non-drug treatments, alternative therapies, and medical trials can be vital to quality of life.

The patient isn't the only one affected by the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease. Loved ones have their own emotional reaction to the news, and eventually, may end up taking on the role of caregiver, changing the dynamics of the relationship drastically. Don't underestimate the affects of this disease on the whole family. Take advantage of the support services available through your insurance plans and local community advocates.

Related Information:

Alzheimer's Disease
Simple Brain Exercises to Keep the Mind Sharp in Old Age
Common Senior Health Challenges: What to Watch For