Provided by United Healthcare
Numerous studies and statistics show Alzheimer’s and other related dementias are on the rise. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s latest figures, nearly 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to triple by 2050. Experts estimate that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis will affect close to 15 million people by mid-century. Currently, every 66 seconds, someone develops dementia in the United States.
What is Alzheimer’s/Dementia?
Forgetfulness, agitation and frustration, social withdrawal, and difficulty with daily tasks, are all symptoms of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most progressive form of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia diagnoses. The “tangles” in the Alzheimer’s brain become unattached and disrupt the communication process, and excessive plaque buildup causes oxidative disruptions to the brain. These disturbances coincide with the tangles that are present. This plaque is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can occur anywhere in the body, but once it ravages the brain, those affected will experience symptoms of forgetfulness and changes in personality, especially in the short-term memory region of the brain.
There are several types of dementia, but one common and often overlooked type is vascular dementia, which usually affects individuals that have suffered a stroke. Vascular dementia injures the brain in the area that controls memory, problem solving and speech. This type of dementia progresses at a slower pace, nonetheless it can be extremely frustrating and devastating for both those living with the disease and their loved ones.
The signs and symptoms of dementia are different for every patient, but common indicators include:
• Forgetfulness, especially short-term memory
• Change in personality
• Difficulty with daily tasks
• Social withdrawal
• Aphasia (a speech disorder)
• Sundowning (confusion and sleeplessness in the evening)
Some medications may slow the progression of the disease, but these are, unfortunately, not a curative treatment method. However, some patients find the following helpful:
• Dietary guidance
• Some medications slow the progression of the disease
• Physical activity
• Cognitive training and socialization
• Intensive monitoring and management of metabolic and vascular risk factors
Maintaining a Healthy Brain
Eating a nutritious diet, such as the Mediterranean or Dash diet, provides essential nutrients for the brain’s health. All three of these diets emphasize on eating plenty of veggies, fruit, healthy fats, whole grains and lean protein, while avoiding sugar, simple carbs and saturated fats. Other studies show high doses of Vitamin C and antioxidant therapy may also help protect cognition.
Staying active and social is also a useful method for maintaining optimal brain health. Along with socialization, staying physically active is imperative in the production of oxygen-rich blood flow and can decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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