Alzheimers & Related Dementias

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FAQ's About Alzheimer's Disease & Related Dementias

While learning that either yourself or a loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease can be overwhelming, there are resources to help guide you.

We have compiled a list of what we have found to be the most commonly asked questions to provide you with some quick answers and insights as you start your research on how to treat the symptoms of this disease.

Is Alzheimer’s Disease a Normal Part of Aging?

The mental decline that occurs with Alzheimer’s Disease is not a normal part of the aging process.

As people age, occasional memory problems are normal – such as forgetting where you put your car keys or a person you have recently met.  Alzheimer’s is more than that – it is a disease that causes brain cells to die.  As this occurs, an individual may start to forget how to get back home to a place they have lived for years or what the name of a friend or relative is.  

You can always check out the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information on this disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 early signs:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

The Alzheimer’s Association has a good overview of this: Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 – 80% of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that can be reversed with treatment, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.

Yes, other diseases and medical conditions can look like Alzheimer’s or cause dementia.

These are other common dementia diseases:

  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Dementia

These diseases and medical conditions can also cause dementia:

  • Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Korsakoff syndrome (a chronic memory disorder caused by severe deficiency of vitamin B-1, most commonly caused by alcohol misuse)
  • Traumatic or repetitive brain injury

There currently is not a simple test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s.

While there is no single test that proves definitively that a person has Alzheimer’s, a diagnosis can be made through a complete assessment that considers all possible causes by a neurologist or geriatrician.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, both drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms.

Current Drugs that Help with Memory Loss: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications — cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex) and memantine (Namenda) — to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association says that the FDA-approved drugs temporarily slow worsening of symptoms for about 6 to 12 months, on average, for about half of the individuals who take them..

Non-Drug Treatments that Help Manage Behavioral Symptoms: Researchers have overwhelmingly concluded that diet, exercise, cognitive stimulation, and maintaining social relationships have beneficial effects on those who already have Alzheimer’s and have amazing brain-protective properties that can actually prevent the onset of the disease for some people.

The Mayo Clinic reports that, although there is no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the strongest evidence so far suggests that you may be able to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by reducing your risk of heart disease. Many of the same factors that increase your risk of heart disease can also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.

Researchers also now believe that keeping active — physically, mentally, and socially — may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Several new studies are looking at the positive effects that certain diet, exercise and social lifestyle can have on slowing down the progression of the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association also advocates that we make brain healthy life choices, pointing to several simple steps you can take to help keep your brain healthier as you age:

  • Stay physically active
  • Remain socially active
  • Remain mentally active
  • Adopt a healthy

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by two abnormalities in the brain – amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The plaques are abnormal clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid. The tangles are bundles of twisted filaments made up of a protein called tau. Plaques and tangles stop communication between nerve cells and cause them to die.

Vascular dementia
Vascular dementia is cognitive impairment caused by damage to the blood vessels in the brain. It can be caused by a single stroke or by several mini-strokes occurring over time. These mini-strokes are also called transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs). Vascular dementia may appear similar to Alzheimer’s disease, and a mixture of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia is fairly common. 

Lewy body disease
Lewy body disease (LBD) is characterized by the presence of Lewy bodies in the brain. Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein that develop inside nerve cells. These abnormalities occur in specific areas of the brain, causing changes in movement, thinking, and behavior.
LBD is often diagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia, but the symptoms can be much different, including hallucinations, anxiety, and rapidly progressing dementia.

Frontotemporal dementia
Frontotemporal dementia refers to a group of conditions that involve degeneration of the front and side regions of the brain. These conditions eventually lead to a progressive decline in behavior, language, or both.

Parkinson disease dementia
As Parkinson’s Disease gradually progresses, the disease will often begin to affect mental functions, including memory and the ability to pay attention, make sound judgments, and plan the steps needed to complete a task.

Brain injury
Traumatic brain injury may affect a person’s cognitive abilities, including learning and thinking skills. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury for all ages. Those aged 75 and older have the highest rates of traumatic brain injury-related hospitalization and death due to falls.