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Today, September 21, 2018, is World Alzheimer’s Day. Today is about raising awareness and challenging the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is not only difficult for the individual, but it is also extremely difficult for family and friends to watch a loved one slowly decline.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease, but a group of symptoms and disorders associated with the impairment of an individual’s mental functioning. Alzheimer’s disease kills brain cells, which causes an individual’s memory and thinking ability to deteriorate. The symptoms typically develop slowly and worsen over time.
A majority of individuals with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65. Although it is less common, individuals under the age of 65 can develop early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. This disease is fatal because it is irreversible. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, there are medications that can help reduce the symptoms to slow down the worsening of the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease affects:
- Mental Ability—Individuals’ ability to think, understand, remember and communicate may decline. A person’s decision-making abilities will be affected, as well as their ability to perform simple tasks such as using the bathroom. Speaking and keeping up with a conversation may also become difficult. Memory loss can occur for recent events and eventually occur for long-term events.
- Mood—People with Alzheimer’s may become confused, depressed, anxious, suspicious and/or upset. Over time, an individual may lose interest in hobbies and withdraw from social interactions.
- Behaviour—A person with Alzheimer’s may behave out-of-character. Some common behaviors include increased restlessness, irritability, physical outbursts, and overall strange behaviour such as hiding items.
- Physical Ability— Individuals’ coordination and mobility may weaken. This can cause an individual to have trouble walking, swallowing and bathing.
An individual with potential signs of Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize they have a serious problem. Signs of Alzheimer’s may be more noticeable to friends and family members.
Learn more about the latest research on Alzheimer’s and dementia below:
1. An eye exam may reveal early signs of dementia
Previously, researchers noticed that retinal nerves in the eye are thinner in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. However, researchers were unsure if this retinal nerve thinning occurred before or after the disease starts. Researchers in the Netherlands conducted a study to determine if individuals with a thinner retina are more likely to develop dementia. Find out if retinal nerve thinning is a sign of dementia here.
2. Social activities stave off cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s
By 2040, there could be 16 million people with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s has no cure and there is no clear evidence that medications and treatments work to reverse cognitive impairment. In a paper published in the Journal of Biomedical Science, researchers examined evidence of how social activity can slow down its progression and potentially postpone its onset. Read more to find out if social activity stops or slows down cognitive impairment here.
3. Chronic drinking may be a risk factor for dementia
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic heavy drinking as consuming 60g of pure alcohol per day for men and 40g of pure alcohol per day for women. This is about six glasses of wine for men and four glasses of wine for women. A large study in France investigated the link between chronic heavy drinking and early onset dementia. Read more to find out if alcohol use is a risk factor for dementia here.
4. Midlife anxiety diagnosis may be a risk factor for dementia
Once an illness such as, Alzheimer’s begins, there is not much that can be done to stop it from developing further. For this reason, prevention and early intervention are the main goals in dementia treatment. A review published in BMJ Open studied if anxiety can lead to an increased risk of dementia. Read more to find out if anxiety is a risk factor of dementia here.
5. Are current treatments good enough to delay cognitive decline or dementia?
Dementia greatly impacts an individual’s quality of life and they may not be able to take care of themselves anymore. This can become costly for families to provide home care or senior home care. Researchers conducted a review to determine the effectiveness of medication to prevent or delay cognitive impairment. Read more to find out if treatments for dementia are effective here.
Want to know more? Read about the latest research in Alzheimer’s and dementia here.
Written by Alana Punit
- “Alzheimer’s Disease”. Alzheimer Society Of Canada, 2018, http://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/About-dementia/Alzheimers-disease. Accessed 13 Sept 2018.
- Evans, Jade. “Are Current Treatments Good Enough To Delay Cognitive Decline Or Dementia?”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/current-treatments-good-delay-cognitive-decline-dementia/. Accessed 13 Sept 2018.
- Fernandez, Sonia. “Is Chronic Drinking A Risk Factor For Dementia”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/chronic-drinking-risk-factor-dementia/. Accessed 13 Sept 2018.
- Fernandez, Sonia. “Midlife Anxiety Diagnosis May Be A Risk Factor For Dementia”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/midlife-anxiety-diagnosis-risk-factor-dementia/. Accessed 13 Sept 2018.
- Hughes, Bryan. “Could An Eye Exam Reveal Early Signs Of Dementia?”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/eye-exam-early-signs-dementia/. Accessed 13 Sept 2018.
- Villamil, C.I. “Can Social Activities Stave Off Cognitive Impairment Related To Alzheimer’s?”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/social-activities-cognitive-impairment-related-alzheimers/. Accessed 13 Sept 2018.
- “What Is Alzheimer’s?”. Alzheimer’s Association, 2018, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers. Accessed 13 Sept 2018.