A difficult malady.
Alzheimer's disease is a difficult malady both for the patient and his family.
A difficult malady.
The other day when my wife and I attended a wedding reception of the son of one of my naval friends, we met several old buddies whom we had not seen for many years. Some thumped my back hard and some asked me, “how are you, son of a gun?” A few saluted me. I said I was fine changing the words to each friend. Unfortunately, I could not remember the names of many of them. I could recollect the name of the ship we served and what courses we did together, but never their names. My wife felt more miserable than me. Although she maintained a calm face with a kindly smile pasted on her face and hugged all her lady friends, she couldn’t remember the names of any of her friends.
As we reminisced about our old days in the navy, I had remembered the names of each and every person, senior or junior, and spent a happy evening enjoying the pleasure of their company. My wife, on the other hand, racked her brains to recollect the names of people and places.
When we reached home, she asked me several questions about the people we had met earlier and kept me awake the whole night.
“You better do some exercises from now on,” I told her.
“Exercise at this age, are you out of your mind?”
“Precisely, one of us is out of his mind, and it’s you.”
She took offense and turned away from me. It took me two hours to explain to her about Alzheimer’s disease and why she should do mental exercises to keep the disease at bay. I had given her books on Soduku, crossword puzzles, brain teasers and started playing scrabble with her.
“You mean this could work?”
“Yes, women above 68 are prone to get this disease, and its onset would be painful to the patient and the caregiver.”
“Why does one need a caregiver?” she asked.
“Every patient of this disease needs a caregiver since she would lose several functions.”
“You better put me wise to it now.” She was all ears as I explained about the disease.
“Today is World’s Alzheimer’s Day and the opportune moment to explain about the disease.”
Causes, and risk factors.
Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s currently incurable.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors.
One is more likely to get Alzheimer's disease (AD) if he is:
• Older. However, developing AD is not a part of normal aging.
• Has a close blood relative, such as a brother, sister, or parent with AD.
• Has certain genes linked to AD.
The following may also increase his risk:
• Being female
• Having high blood pressure for a long time
• History of head trauma
There are two types of AD:
• One appears before age 60, but much less common than the one that sets late. However, it tends to get worse quickly.
• Late onset AD is the most common type. It occurs in people age 60 and older and not hereditary.
The cause of AD is not clear. The genes and environmental factors seem to play a role.
Symptoms include difficulty with many areas of mental function, including:
• Emotional behavior or personality
• Thinking and judgment (cognitive skills)
Dementia usually first appears as forgetfulness. Mild Cognitive Impairment, MCD is the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging, and the development of AD. People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities. They are often aware of the forgetfulness. Not everyone with MCI develops AD.
Symptoms of MCI:
• Difficulty performing more than one task at a time
• Difficulty solving problems
• Forgetting recent events or conversations
• Taking longer to perform more difficult activities
The early symptoms of AD can include:
• Difficulty performing tasks that take some thought, but used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing complex games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines.
• Getting lost on familiar routes.
• Language problems, such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects
• Losing interest in things previously enjoyed.
• Misplacing items.
• Personality changes and loss of social skills.
As the disease gets worse one notices,
• Change in sleep patterns, often waking up at night
• Delusions, depression, agitation
• Difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, and driving
• Difficulty reading or writing
• Forgetting details about current events
• Forgetting events in your own life history, losing awareness of who you are
• Hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and violent behavior
• Poor judgment and loss of ability to recognize danger
• Using the wrong word, mispronouncing words, speaking in confusing sentences
• Withdrawing from social contact
People with severe AD can no longer:
• Understand language
• Recognize family members
• Perform basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, and bathing
Other symptoms that may occur with AD:
• Swallowing problems
“That’s why it’s important to prevent it and boost your brain power now,” I said.
“OK, wise guy, what can we do for prevention?” my wife asked.
Treating brain like a muscle and exercising it. The brain is a dynamic, adaptable system and its neurons respond to environmental factors and mental stimulation. By stimulating it, one can preserve his memory and even restore the clarity he had in his youth.
Brain’s ability to adapt is best described by two terms:
1.Neuroplasticity which keeps its cells plastic, and flexible neurons allow us to master new skills, memorize, and adjust to unfamiliar environments.
2. Neurogenesis which gives it an ability to restore itself by generating new neurons.
The more connections, or synapses, one develops between brain cells from the use of his brain, the more resistant he is to the disease.
The best way is to keep the brain in shape with following mental exercises.
1. Keep it interesting. Crossword puzzles, Suduko, chess, brain teasers,
2. Be part of a community and engage in healthy discussions, stimulating lectures etc.
3. Use New Technology like computer games using Nitendo Does working out that noggin.
4. Play games like bridge and chess which require analytical thinking. See my blog “Bridge is a fascinating game.
One should supplement his mental exercise with physical exercise to keep the body and mind together. He should also lower his stress hormone with relaxation. The best way is to avoid stress and go for holidays that one had long intended and visit places of interest.
For people with a passion for writing, it is best to write for Wikinut. One can exercise his brain cells and earn lifetime royalties too.