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Understanding Alzheimer’s

Posted August 14, 2013 in Advice Column

Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.

It’s the most common cause of dementia, a group of brain disorders that results in the loss of intellectual and social skills. These changes are severe enough to interfere with day-to-day living.

Memory changes as you grow older, but memory loss that disrupts daily activities is not typical of aging.

Here is a list of warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
•    Memory changes that disrupt daily life.
•    Challenges in solving problems — they may have trouble following a familiar recipe.
•    Difficulty completing familiar tasks — they may have trouble driving to church.
•    Confusion with time — they may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately.
•    Trouble with understanding visual images — they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room.
•    New problems speaking or writing — they may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue.
•    Misplacing items — They sometimes accuse others of stealing.
•    Poor judgement — they may pay less attention to keeping themselves clean.
•    Withdrawal from work or social outings —they may have trouble remembering how to complete a favorite hobby.
•    Changes in personality — they may be easily upset at home, work or in places out of their comfort zone. They may be come confused, suspicious,depressed or fearful.

These are signs of age-related changes not necessarily Alzheimer’s: making a bad decision, missing one monthly bill, forgetting it is Tuesday and remembering later, sometimes forgetting what word to use or losing items.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, but your risks increases after you reach 65. Nearly half of those older than 85 have Alzheimer’s. Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease due to they live longer. The risk for Alzheimer’s appears to be higher if your parent or sibling has the disease.

People who have had severe head trauma or repeated head trauma appears to have a greater risk of Alzheimer’s.

No lifestyle is exempt from this disease. However, some factors put you at risk of heart disease may also increase the chance you will develop Alzheimer’s. These include lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poorly-controlled diabetes, a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables and lack of social interaction.

It is important to know that while there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments and support groups that can make it easier to live with Alzheimer’s.

Information provided by Tammy Greenfield, RN, assistant director of nursing, Crestview Nursing and Rehab, 2401 Des Moines St., Webster City, 832-2727.

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