Mood Changes, Memory Loss Are Just Some Of The Warning Signs Of Dementia
September Is World Alzheimer’s Month.
The whole world comes together every year in September to raise awareness about dementia for World Alzheimer’s Month. As the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease continues to persist, it is important for us to read up on its warning signs, diagnosis, and how we can support our loved ones who have the disease.
OneLife.ph spoke with adult neurologist Dr. Donnabelle Chu to discuss everything we need to know about Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia.
“Dementia is a general term for cognitive loss including memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with a person’s activities of daily living,” she explains. “It is not a specific disease, but rather a group of disorders.”
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50% to 80% of dementia cases.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
According to Dr. Chu, it is a “neurodegenerative disorder that is caused by an accumulation of an abnormal protein in the brain, which eventually leads to cell death and shrinkage in the size of the brain.”
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can be classified into two: early-onset AD and late-onset AD.
Early-onset AD usually affects individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s. However, this only makes up for about 5% to 25% of the total AD cases.
“Early-onset AD is the familial type wherein it is due to mutation in genes associated with AD. This is the hereditary type wherein the onset can be before reaching the age of 65,” Dr. Chu explains.
Late-onset AD, on the other hand, is the more common type of Alzheimer’s disease.
“75-95% of cases is that of the late-onset AD or the sporadic type. There is no causative gene identified yet,” she adds. This can be caused by modifiable and non-modifiable factors.
Non-modifiable factors include age, gender, ethnicity, and genetic factors. Modifiable factors are physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, air pollution, head injury, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, among many others.
What are the warning signs of AD?
Dr. Chu says that symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include a “gradually progressing and worsening of memory loss, challenges in planning and solving problems, mood changes, gradual loss of ability to perform normal tasks, inability to recognize and use familiar objects as well as confusion in terms of time and places.”
During its early stages, an individual may experience problems with routine tasks, the ones that they are usually able to do well before gradually becoming more and more difficult.
“There can also be changes in personality, confusion and memory loss, misplacing objects, forgetting names and disorientation. As the disease progresses, they tend to develop behavioral symptoms and are more dependent with other people, and would require help [with] basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and feeding,” she adds.
Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed by consulting a specialist, as well as by undergoing physical and neurological examination. Taking thorough notes of your family history and day-to-day activities may also help.
Dr. Chu adds, “A neurocognitive evaluation as well as blood tests and brain imaging may be done before one can be diagnosed with AD.”
Is Alzheimer’s curable?
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, medications are given to prevent the progression of a patient’s symptoms.
“Early risk assessment, prompt diagnosis, and initiation of appropriate management is a must in order to prevent worsening of cognitive decline that may cause an increase in disability,” says Dr. Chu.
“As more and more individuals develop or have these modifiable risk factors, the risk of developing AD at an earlier age is also increasing. Knowing that these risk factors can be addressed and that developing AD at an earlier age can be prevented, we must engage in activities that promote a healthier lifestyle even at a younger age.”
Engaging in aerobic exercise, healthy eating, and having a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and omega-3 fatty acid can help in preventing the disease.
“Engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as learning new things and developing new hobbies; preventing social isolation and depression; smoking cessation and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption; as well as having a good educational background. Avoidance of head trauma can also help decrease the risk of developing dementia,” she adds.
According to the Alzheimer’s Disease International, “We are calling on everyone to do something during September, however small or large, through our campaign ‘Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s’.
“It is only through a truly global effort that we can raise much-needed awareness and challenge the stigma and misinformation that still surrounds dementia.”
For more information, you may contact Dr. Donnabelle Chu on Facebook.