Most adults experience some form of memory loss as they age—anything from misplacing your keys to forgetting an appointment. Fortunately, these kinds of memory lapses don’t necessarily signal alarm. But in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, memory loss interferes with everyday activities and is more severe. Unsure when memory loss may be serious? Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia and when to seek help.
Alzheimer’s and DementiaDementia refers to a decline in thinking skills and memory that interfere with daily living, such as trouble using language or recognizing people. There are different types of dementia—Alzheimer’s is only one of them. It accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. Another type is vascular dementia. This is caused by brain damage from small strokes. Other forms of dementia may be caused by vitamin defencies or other health problems, while Alzheimer’s disease is caused by plaque in the brain that affects nerve cells.
Early-onset Alzheimer’sMost people develop Alzheimer’s in their later years—at age 65 or older. But there are some people who develop Alzheimer’s in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. This is called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. About 10% of Alzheimer’s cases are early-onset Alzheimer’s.
CausesIt isn’t always clear what causes someone to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, but some cases are likely caused by genetic factors. For the remaining majority of Alzheimer’s cases, the cause is often a mix of genes and environmental and lifestyle factors.
Head injuries also may attribute to Alzheimer’s cases. People who suffer a head injury early in life are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Finally, there is a link between people with diabetes and memory loss. This link is not a cause of Alzheimer’s, but people with diabetes are 1.5 times more likely than those without the disease to develop trouble with memory and thinking, including Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms and DiagnosisIn addition to the symptoms listed above, one of the first signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can develop into Alzheimer’s disease, is trouble identifying smells. We naturally experience a decline in our sense of smell when we age, andallergies or a cold can temporarily decrease this as well. But if your sense of smell has been gone for a while, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Other symptoms to discuss with your doctor include:
If these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia couldmean more treatment options. Although there is no way to prevent Alzheimer’s, there are medicines that can help preserve speaking, thinking and memory for a short time, and help you function better.
For more information on the signs of memory loss, watch the following video from eCards for Health:
Sources: Alzheimer’s Association, Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health
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