Healthy Living

18 Things You Should Know About Alzheimer’s

From the Home Care Assistance Healthy Longevity Webinar Series:

1. What is the average age that one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?Most people are diagnosed after age 65.

2. What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia and/or senility?Dementia (or senility) is defined as impairment in memory and at least one other cognitive ability (e.g., language skills) to the degree that it impairs social and/or occupational functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia—it is gradual in onset and progression and patients have plaques and tangles in brain regions controlling cognition.

3. Are you saying because people are living longer they will eventually get Alzheimer’s?I can’t say they will all get Alzheimer’s – that is a matter of debate. In fact, I suspect that if an individual lives a brain healthy lifestyle that risk would be diminished.

4. Is there any way to predict the time of progression of Alzheimer’s disease? I have a close family member with early onset of this disease at age 60. That is really not possible for an individual. The rate of progression for early onset tends to be faster than for late onset but there is considerable individual variation.

5. My dad had terrible Alzheimer’s. I have genetic high cholesterol and also am anxious. Do you think I have a high risk of getting Alzheimer’s?Having a parent with Alzheimer’s will double your risk so at age 65 your risk would be 20% rather than 10%. Anxiety about memory only makes memory worse so I would encourage you to live a brain healthy lifestyle and consult with your doctor if your concerns continue.

6. I recently heard that there is a vaccine for Alzheimer’s. Can you talk about that? A vaccine that clears out brain amyloid was tested several years ago but it caused brain inflammation. Newer and less toxic vaccines are in development.

7. Most people take an aspirin a day to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke while increasing the chance of surviving them. Has any research been done to see if an aspirin a day also helps with Alzheimer’s disease? To my knowledge, only one epidemiological study has shown an association between taking aspirin daily and having a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Most studies show the association with other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

8. In regards to using computers to improve memory and brain function, is it better to use online games with memory tests, or “work” e.g. searching for information to solve problems in your life or for an organization/community?There have not been comparative studies to answer this question so I suggest playing whatever games the individual enjoys.

9. Why do you think people who are more tech savvy show more brain activity when searching the web compared to reading?Tech savvy people have developed a neural strategy to successfully search—naive individuals haven’t yet developed the strategy so they don’t engage the “Internet searching neural circuits.”

10. Is the correlation between Alzheimer’s and diabetes the same for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes? The correlation is generally in the context of type 2.

11. How important is undergoing an MRI for a person who exhibits the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?The American Academy of Neurology recommends either MRI or CT scans for everyone who may be given a dementia diagnosis in order to rule out tumors, strokes, or other space-occupying abnormalities.

12. Is there a particular recommendation for brain imaging – MRI, PET or other based on what you suspect the problem to be?Many people get scans for mild memory loss associated with aging, but I don’t recommend that routinely.

13. What do you think of Amyvid scan?I don’t think it will be used too much unless it informs us on specific drug treatments.

14. Are you saying because people are living longer they will eventually get Alzheimer’s? I can’t say they will all get Alzheimer’s – that is a matter of debate. In fact, I suspect that if an individual lives a brain healthy lifestyle that risk would be diminished.

15. Is brisk walking better than strength training?Most of the research points to aerobic exercise as being brain protective and strength training as offering some additional benefit.

16. Is there any research that shows a link between dementia and Restless Leg Syndrome? Can one aggravate the other?Restless leg syndrome has not been consistently associated with Alzheimer’s disease, although when present, it can certainly aggravate it.

17. You talked about the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s and that Madame C. probably took anti-inflammatories. But NSAIDs can cause blood pressure to rise. That said, how can we manage those competing goals?I would not recommend NSAIDs as preventive treatments because of their side effects and we don’t have enough research to ensure both safety and efficacy. However, we are looking for other anti-inflammatory treatments that are less toxic. In addition there are a number of foods with anti-inflammatory properties that you can incorporate into your daily diet.

18. You talked about “dementia” being brought on by things like medications and that once the medication reaction is treated, dementia is “cured.” It has been my understanding that dementia is never curable or reversible. Isn’t the reversible type of dementia actually Delirium? Dementia can be reversible. Lissy Jarvik and I detailed this issue in a publication many years ago. Delirium is defined by its waxing and waning confusional state and can overlap with dementia but is not itself a form of dementia.

Information shared by Home Care Assistance from their Webinar Series: Home Care Assistance Longevity Webinar Series: Sharing health knowledge. Promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors. Changing the way the world ages.

Photo Credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock.com

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