We all forget things occasionally. We misplace our keys temporarily, take longer to perform routine tasks, or forget names, dates and other details once in a while. These are normal signs not only of aging, but of daily life.
But the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) go beyond these normal signs of aging. Our table compares normal signs of aging to signs of AD, to help you tell the difference and take action. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), half of Americans in nursing homes today have some degree of Alzheimer’s disease, a brain condition that leads to cognitive decline and dementia.
In total, Alzheimer’s or AD, affects more than 5 million people in the U.S., causing more than 110,000 deaths, and noted as the sixth-leading cause of deaths in the U.S., according to 2015 data. AD is also a progressive disease. It gets more pronounced over time. And there is also a phase where the disease is affecting the brain without external, obvious symptoms. However, there are ways you can detect the early signs and actions you can take to slow its progress, and the devastating impacts.
What is AD?
Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder, is the most common cause of dementia — literally, the “loss of mind” — in seniors. It is a condition characterized by the death of neurons, or nerve cells, and synapses, the connections between them, in the brain. It is associated with the development of plaques and protein tangles in the brain. While these are consequences of aging, people with AD and associated dementia have been found to have greater amounts of plaques and tangles.
In AD, this starts in the hippocampus, the center for memory and learning. This is why the most obvious effects of AD are loss of memory and the ability to perform daily tasks. Dementia also presents as a loss or change in personality, memory, and ability to function independently in the world. Some of the long-term effects of AD and dementia include:
- loss of ability to do routine activities
- loss of abilty to understand conversations or instructions
- inability to communicate, including pain or symptoms of disease
- difficulty walking
- loss of balance
- repeated falls
- inability to swallow
Causes of AD
While no one has yet determined the exact cause of AD, a range of factors are probable. These include genetics (whether a parent or other close relative has had AD), head trauma such as concussion, and long-term exposure to toxins such as molds.
The strongest risk factor so far appears to be family history. Those who have a parent or sibling with AD are more likely to develop AD. International research has also pointed to a number of possible and modifiable risk factors associated with AD: smoking, depression, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, low education, cognitive inactivity and physical inactivity.
Most people who have AD develop it after the age of 65, but early-onset AD can occur in younger people, as well. After age 85, nearly one-third of seniors show signs of AD.
Early warning signs
Below are the early warning signs of AD and looming AD-related dementia. If you notice an increase in several of these in yourself or a loved one, consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
- personality change
- mood changes and mood swings
- inconsistent or inappropriate emotional responses
- confusion and disorientation
- decrease in ability to read
- withdrawal from social situations
- getting lost frequently
- angry outbursts, aggression or violence
- distrust of family members and long-term friends
- memory loss
- frustration over inability to remember or communicate
- difficulty finding the right words to communicate or explain
- significant decrease in verbal fluency
- difficulty comprehending conversation or situations
- inability to remember and repeat a statement immediately after it was given
- loss of inhibitions.
How to be sure
AD is a progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms and effects become stronger over time. But the root causes of AD have been working in the brain for some time before signs become noticeable.
There is no single test to diagnose dementia or AD. Scientifically, AD can only be proved after death. Clearly, a way to detect signs of AD early would help. That’s what the Bredesen protocol is about. Developed by Dr. Dale Bredesen, it includes blood tests, cognitive evaluations and other indications of overall health. We will also look at environmental and lifestyle factors that may be contributing to symptoms.
Next comes the ReCODE protocol that uses a number of strategies to address the specific health conditions that contribute to A.
We provide ongoing monitoring and adjustment of the
The next step is a multiple modality approach to metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration, or MEND. The goal: slowing the advance of AD and dementia.
In other words, we take the time and devote careful analysis of evidence to develop an individually tailored lifestyle modification guide to mitigate risk of AD. If indicated by test results, this could include bioidentical hormone replacement, treatment for biotoxin and other chronic illnesses, nutritional supplements, and of course follow-up cognitive assessments at regular intervals.
Don’t put off your health
If you’re concerned about your risk of developing AD, or for a loved one, don’t put off finding out more. Read our page on AD, find more resources, and contact us through our quick contact form, or call us at 703-822-5003 during regular office hours.