We tend to think that Alzheimer's is an illness that only affects older people, and to a certain degree this is accurate, increased age is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s but “200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease” (Alzheimer’s Association).
What exactly is Alzheimer’s? Is Alzheimer’s the same as dementia? The term dementia describes a severe decline in mental capacity that interferes with every day activities, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.
What are the first and most common signs and symptoms of this illness? As part of the normal aging process some memory deterioration is expected, but having difficulty in remembering newly learned information could be one of the first symptoms. Other and more severe symptoms are: disorientation, mood and behavior changes, confusion and some mild paranoia related to familiar people. More serious symptoms are severe memory loss, altered behavior, difficulty walking and talking. Of course early diagnosis is paramount, so it is recommended to consult a physician as soon as you or a loved one show any of these symptoms.
The sad news about Alzheimer’s is that there is no cure and it is very difficult to stop the progression of the disease. However the good news is that the scientific community is invested in finding a cure for this illness and research is ongoing worldwide. Researchers are working on finding treatments for the symptoms and also understanding more clearly what causes this disease so they can be able to treat, delay and hopefully one day prevent and cure Alzheimer’s disease.
So, now comes the interesting part, what can we do to prevent or delay the onset of all forms of dementia and improve our brain health? Although the medical community is still working hard on finding the answer to this question, there are many things that we can do to lower our chances of developing this illness:
- Do not smoke and avoid excess alcohol
- Get enough sleep and try to reduce your stress, anxiety and depression. Seek professional help if needed.
- Have your numbers checked! See your doctor regularly to have your HgbA1c, your cholesterol, your blood pressure checked and keep your weight under control.
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
- Engage in intellectual activities, read, study or learn a new skill.
- EXERCISE, BREAK A SWEAT, PLAY A SPORT!!!
This is one more and important reason to exercise, so hit the gym and take a class, workout with a personal trainer, go for a run or take your bike out of the garage!
By Lisy Espindola, LCSW, Health & Wellness Director