Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia

How common is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of cognitive disorders typically characterized by memory impairment, as well as marked difficulty with language, motor activity, and object recognition. Dementia is estimated to affect an estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

How do you distinguish Alzheimer’s Disease from dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps the most common form of dementia to occur in those people older than age 65. It’s a progressive disease of the brain. In the early stages, people experience some memory loss that progresses to marked memory loss, then to a decrease in thinking ability. In its advanced stages the disease leads to the loss in the ability to perform activities of daily living or recognize loved ones.

Are there many different types of dementia?

Yes, there are many different types of dementia. These are categorized by the area of the brain affected, and by stages of progression. There are certain conditions, both reversible and irreversible, that can be the cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s is one type that is irreversible, although its progression can be slowed by medication, which is especially helpful in the earliest stages of the disease. The second most common form of dementia is vascular dementia. This is the category that is most influenced by lifestyle, such as exercise, controlled blood sugars and cholesterol (LDL), and not smoking. Another common dementia type is Lew Body disease. The symptoms of this category can overlap with Alzheimer’s and can share similar traits of Parkinson’s disease.

What are the signs of early dementia?

While the disease affects everyone differently, some of the early signs can include getting lost easily; difficulty handling money and/or paying bills; losing or misplacing items; repeating questions or bits of conversation out of context; taking longer to finish routine tasks; and using poor judgment.

Are there ways to prevent or delay dementia?

While there are now some known risk factors for dementia, some are beyond our control (non-modifiable), such as age and genetics. Some lifestyle habits (modifiable) can also increase the likelihood of dementia, such as alcohol intake and smoking. These are linked with increased risk of vascular disease. Controlling high cholesterol (especially high levels of LDL) can help prevent development of a vascular dementia. Though there is no cure for dementia, early detection and treatment is the best way to delay its progression.

Is there a treatment for dementia?

Yes, there are a few medications that help slow the disease progression, and others that treat the symptoms of the disease. Depending on the stage of progression, a patient’s health care provider can help determine the best course of action.

Are there resources for those diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?

In New Hampshire, you can call the Alzheimer’s Association helpline at 800-272-3900 or go to the website www.alz.org/manh.

By Mariah McHose, APRN, PMHNP-BC

For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia or to schedule an an appointment, please call 603-788-5095.