How To Identify Alzheimer’s From An Early Stage
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, more than a half million Canadians are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, with 25,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
While Alzheimer’s is best known for causing the loss of long-term and short-term memory, it can also have other negative effects on the body and significantly shorten the life spans of patients.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys a person’s thinking skills and memory, and its effects are irreversible.
For most Alzheimer’s patients, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s and get progressively more severe over time, eventually affecting the ability to carry out both complex and simple tasks.
It currently affects 5% of those aged 80 and older.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is caused by the buildup of amino acid plaque in the brain, resulting in the death of affected brain cells.
Even though we do not fully understand what causes the buildup of this plaque, researchers have found that ageing, a family history of the disease, and the presence of certain genes are common risk factors.
We can’t change our genes or stop ageing, but other risk factors are more manageable.
People are more at risk for the disease when not mentally, socially, and physically engaged.
The presence of other diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, can also be contributing factors, especially if they are not fully managed.
Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
There is no simple test for Alzheimer’s disease, doctors look at various signs and behaviours that typically appear over a period of months or years.
These signs include:
- Difficulty remembering new information
- Misplacing or forgetting things
- Difficulty thinking through tasks and making decisions
- Trouble recognizing faces or common objects
- Experiencing issues using simple tools or properly putting on clothing
Some patients experience changes in personality, mood changes, and compulsive behaviour.
If your friend or family member is experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with a physician for further evaluation.
The Importance of Early Detection
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are things that can make it easier to live with the disease.
The sooner one realizes what’s happening, the faster preventative care can be implemented.
Alzheimer’s typically progresses in three stages:
Early Stage Alzheimer’s
Most individuals can still function independently. Memory lapses are increasingly common, however, and patients may have trouble planning or organizing.
Middle Stage Alzheimer’s
Typically the longest stage and often lasts several years. Individuals have more trouble performing common tasks but are still able to retain long-term memories. Patients in this stage eventually require a greater degree of assistance.
Late Stage Alzheimer’s
Individuals experience severe memory loss and the inability to respond to people and their environment. It may take more than a decade for the disease to progress to this stage. Patients in this stage typically require round-the-clock care.
The progression of the disease can be forestalled to some degree by increasing mental and physical activity.
Engaging in social activities, such as clubs or group classes, can also help.
Preserving Your Cognitive Abilities
By identifying your risk factors and detecting Alzheimer’s at an early stage, you can maximize your chances to preserve your cognitive abilities.
1. Create an Exercise Plan
Regular physical exercises can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or slow down the deterioration progress.
An optimal exercise plan should involve both cardio and strength training. Building muscle can also help maintain a healthier brain.
Some recommended exercises include walking, swimming, yoga and Tai Chi.
2. Engage in Social Activities
Staying socially engaged will not only help you maintain a good network of friends and family, but it will also help develop good mental health.
Some recommended social activities include volunteering, joining a hobby or social club, visiting your neighbourhood’s community center, taking new classes, making hanging out with your friends and family a regular occasion and getting out to the movies, parks or museums.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
This is important for people of any age. However, there are a few things you should note specifically for Alzheimer’s disease.
Cutting down on sugar: Alzheimer’s is often referred to as the “diabetes of the brain”. Foods that contain a lot of sugar and refined carb can cause a spike in blood sugar that will inflame your brain. Adjust your diet and reduce the use of rice, pasta, bread and white flour in your daily meal plan.
Avoid trans fat: This applies to all ages. Trans fats found in fast food, fried and pre-packaged food can cause inflammation that is hard on the brain.
Stock up on Omega 3: Instead of indulging on unhealthy fat, you can resort to its alternative of healthier fat.
Good fats are broken into 2 main categories:
- Mono-unsaturated fats are commonly found in nuts, cold-press olive oil and avocado
- Poly-unsaturated fats such as omega 3 are found in oily fish like salmon, flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Eat lots of fruit and vegetable: Fruit and vegetables contain a lot of antioxidants and vitamins are not only great for your overall health but also plays a great role in your brain health. Find these great nutrients in leafy greens like kale and spinach, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbage and fruits like berries. Please note that some fruits can carry a lot of natural sugar so you should do your research before indulging on unexpected sugar.
4. Challenge Your Brain
If you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout your life, your chances of getting Alzheimer’s will lower.
When the brain is put to work constantly, it does not have the opportunity to deteriorate.
You should continue to stimulate your brain through learning new skills, advancing in current skills, playing mentally stimulating games like puzzles and practicing your memorization skills.
5. Manage Your Stress
Stress can take a heavy toll on the brain. Simple stress management exercises will help minimize harmful impacts on your brain.
Some effective practices include breathing, practicing meditation and partaking in relaxation activities including yoga or a bath.
Don’t forget to laugh often and make time for leisure activities.
6. Get Good Night Sleeps
A lot of us need at least 8 hours of sleep per night to fully restore. If you are experiencing sleep problems, it is best to consult a professional.
It is also common for people with Alzheimer’s to suffer from sleep issues, and it can even be a risk factor.
Establishing a regular sleep schedule is a great way to train your brain and body to follow your natural body’s clock.
You should also create a relaxing sleeping environment with any outside factors that can help nourish your mood.
Having a Caregiver Can Help Make Your Life Better
Engaging the services of a caregiver can help manage the disease and its symptoms.
A caregiver can provide effective exercise and dietary routines, as well as provide necessary social interaction like participation in social activities and day-care programs.
All About Seniors provides personalized in-home care that best benefits patients with Alzheimer’s, helping to slow down the progression of the disease and provide a healthy and meaningful lifestyle.