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Senior Citizen's Guide to Baltimore

Alzheimerís Disease 101

Alzheimer’s disease is a scary thought for many as they approach the “golden years.” This progressive brain illness can profoundly affect not just the individual who develops it, but spouses and entire families.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia among older Americans. People who have dementia may have trouble with everyday activities such as eating, drinking, talking and walking. They may act confused, have trouble understanding what is said to them or have trouble communicating their own thoughts and needs. In addition to Alzheimer’s, other things, like stroke, infection, illness and certain drugs can cause dementia.

Researchers don’t yet know the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but they have identified risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing it. They include:

Of course, you can’t control your age, gender or family history, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk:

Protect Yourself from Injury.

Researchers have linked serious head injury and the future risk of developing Alzheimer’s. So buckle up whenever you’re in a vehicle, and wear a helmet when appropriate such as while playing sports or riding a motorcycle.

Be Heart Smart

Brain health is strongly linked to heart health. Alzheimer’s risk can be increased by conditions that damage heart or blood vessels, like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol. Work with your doctor to monitor and treat problems that arise.

Age Healthfully

Maintain a healthy weight, avoid tobacco and excess alcohol, stay socially connected and keep your body and mind active.

How do you differentiate Alzheimer’s from normal forgetfulness? Memory problems caused by Alzheimer’s will begin slowly, so at first, you may think that they are a natural part of aging. It’s not unusual for an older adult to forget having paid a bill or what was on the grocery list, but with Alzheimer’s disease, these symptoms begin to happen more and more often.

As the disease progresses, the person may forget how to do familiar tasks. Even simple things like cooking a meal or balancing a checkbook may become difficult. In later stages, people may even forget how to comb their hair or brush their teeth.

If you begin to experience these symptoms, or notice them in a family member or friend, it is imperative to see your healthcare provider. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but medication and early treatment can slow the progression of the disease.

Lastly, if you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, don’t let yourself be consumed by your caretaker role. Remember to take time to care for yourself and consider joining a support group where you can share your experiences and learn from others who have been through the same challenge.

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