It ranks sixth as the leading cause of death among Americans and it appears to be on the rise. It is a scary disease with a slow onset and signs that are often overlooked. Alzheimer’s can leave you or your loved ones nearly unrecognizable towards the end. The sad part is that there is no cure.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes issues with memory, thinking, behavior and other cognitive function. When symptoms do develop, they often occur slowly and progressively worsen. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging.
Initially, people who suffer from Alzheimer’s have difficulty coming up with the correct word or name, have difficulty performing social tasks, losing a valuable object or have a hard time planning things. When the disease progresses, so does the ability to remember.
People with late-stage Alzheimer’s will not only forget family members, but they tend to require round the clock assistance with daily personal care. They may experience changes in physical abilities as well like walking, sitting and swallowing. Sadly, they are also more prone to infections as well, like pneumonia.
Even with all this doom and gloom, there is some good news surfacing. Currently there are treatments that could at least help prevent a risk factor called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) from turning into Alzheimer’s or at least it can help slow it down.
What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Just like dementia is an umbrella term for various forms, so is mild cognitive impairment. When MCI begins to creep in, you will see a decline in memory with it affecting other functions like language or visual-spatial awareness.
In addition, there is no singular cause of MCI or dementia. They are still trying to determine the ways the brain changes as it relates to MCI and Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind, being diagnosed with MCI does not mean you will ultimately suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, with MCI there are reports of cases where the symptoms do not worsen and even sometimes improve.
What Is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Normal Forgetfulness?
It is normal to not have the best memory as you age. It might take you longer to remember an event or something in your past, however the memories are still there. To have your memory truly lost however, is not normal.
How is MCI Diagnosed?
Oftentimes, signs of MCI are noticed by a friend or family member first. There are things that come up to lead an observer to question beyond the normal effects of aging. These signs can include the following:
- Repeating questions
- Getting lost while driving in your own neighborhood
- Not knowing the date, month or year
- Having difficulty with simple tasks
These are very important clues that a more serious diagnosis could be at hand. Other conditions like alcoholism, strokes and brain tumors need to be ruled out first. There could also be deficiencies or medication side effects causing these issues that mimic MCI or dementia.
Can You Keep Your Brain Sharp?
Even without a cure for MCI or Alzheimer’s disease, other causes of memory loss issues can be treatable. To keep your brain sharp, there is one thing you can do that seems to be helpful.
Exercise. Studies have shown that adults who exercise not only experience less side effects of MCI, but also have slight improvement with cognitive ability. The recommendation is 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Just 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise weekly can also do the trick. The experts strongly believe cardiovascular health is important for brain health.
There are other ways to lower your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While many people think they may be doomed by genetics, there are other factors to consider. For instance, strokes and other events that impede the flow of blood to your brain rank as the second most common form of dementia. This is called vascular dementia. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all factors. Therefore, once again your cardiovascular health and health in general can play a big role for you.
Final Thoughts on Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease
Your genetics does not have to play the only role in your fate with Alzheimer’s disease and MCI. Being aware of your cognitive abilities early as you age, along with staying in good health can really set you up for success. Treatments for MCI are positive and always changing.
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