Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Leading a healthy lifestyle is about being aware of issues that affect our mind and bodies right now. It also means being aware about what could affect us in the future. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month.  Get the facts about the disease that currently affects more than 15 million people in the United States.

alzheimers-awareness-monthWhat it is

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects one’s memory, thinking, recall and behavior. It is typically slow in onset, but can progress over time so that it interferes with one’s ability to perform daily activities.

The disease is named after a German neuropathologist named Dr. Alois Alzheimer.  When examining brain tissue of a deceased patient, he noticed abnormal collections of plaque and fiber.  The patient had suffered acute memory loss and had bouts of unpredictable behavior. Dr. Alzheimer surmised these changes in the brain were responsible for the onset of her medical symptoms.

Risk factors

Many people assume memory loss is a normal part of the aging process. It’s not. However, the greatest risk factor for the disease is advanced aging. Another important risk factor is family history. If you have a parent or sibling with the diagnosis, you are at statistically greater odds of also receiving the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Find out if you or someone you know is at risk

Take the following 10 question quiz:

  • Are you forgetful about important dates or events and find you’re asking the same questions over and over?
  • Do you experience new difficulties solving routine problems like balancing the checkbook?
  • Do you have difficulty finishing tasks?
  • Are you confused about how much time has elapsed during the day? Are you confused about your surroundings and how you got there?
  • Do you have difficulty with spatial relationships or judging the distance between spaces?
  • Do you have difficulty using the correct vocabulary words?
  • Do you commonly misplace things or place things in odd places?
  • Do you use poor judgment with money or when making a decision?
  • Have you discontinued activities you once enjoyed doing?
  • Do you experience mood changes or frequently experience confusion, suspicion, anxiety?

See your doctor

Unfortunately, there’s no simple medical exam or blood test one can take to determine if you are suffering from Alzheimer’s.  The most important thing you can do is visit your doctor regularly. He or she can obtain a thorough medical history and perform routine a physical and neurological exam.

Hopeful advances in treatment

No cure for Alzheimer’s disease is yet available.  However, in the past decade there have been several new pharmaceutical and behavioral breakthroughs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of several medications which help with the cognitive symptoms of the disease.  A long list of dietary supplements, herbal remedies and nontraditional medical modalities also exist which appear to mitigate the effects of the disease.

Get the support you need

If you are a caregiver, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Dozens of support groups are available which provide resources, training, education and camaraderie.

Do you have a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s? Tell us your story on our Facebook page.

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