health for your
MANAGING YOUR HEALTH
By Clara Freeman
ACCORDING TO THE Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC; www.cdc.gov),
Alzheimer’s disease is per-
haps the most common
form of dementia, although
several other forms exist.
Dementia is not a
specific disease. Rather it
describes a collection of
symptoms caused by a number of disorders
that affect the brain. Doctors diagnose
dementia when two or more brain functions,
such as memory and language skills, are significantly impaired without a loss of consciousness that might otherwise occur as a
result of traumatic brain injury. Alzheimer’s is
the most progressive stage of dementia and
affects upwards of 5. 3 million Americans.
Because we are a society whose inhabitants are clearly enjoying longer life spans,
some experts have characterized dementia
as an old person’s disease. Although treat-able, dementia is far from curable. Doctors
can prescribe medications to improve or slow
the progression of patients’ symptoms, while
researchers continue to focus on all forms of
the illness, including Alzheimer’s.
Risk factors to consider when evaluating
those suspected of having dementia include:
● Age—adults 60 and older could
develop signs of dementia.
● Family history (aunts, uncles, cousins)
● Heredity (parents and grandparents)
Being proactive and providing this and
other information will help your family physician or medical staff determine links to the
Early signs of dementia where the disease might be considered suspect are:
● Forgetfulness—not just occasionally
misplacing glasses or car keys, but a constant forgetfulness that is noticed by friends
● Putting things in the wrong places,
such as putting the iron in the refrigerator,
or the milk in the cupboard
● Being unable to follow simple directions, such as going somewhere one has
always gone and getting lost
● Loss of interest in favorite hobbies
● Personality changes
These are just a few early signs that
something might be amiss in someone
experiencing the signs of early dementia.
It’s always best to get a physician’s recommendation before attempting to diagnose any illness. Dementia, according to the
CDC, can be caused by a variety of things,
including a reaction to certain medications,
infections and nutritional deficiencies, which
may be reversed with proper treatment.
Researchers are focusing on these
forms of dementia in an effort to improve
people’s lives and ultimately prevent or cure
For more insights, visit the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke website on dementia at www.ninds.
Clara Freeman is a nurse, a former nurse advice
columnist and a features writer for The Chicago
Independent Bulletin Newspaper ( www.chicago
T ES -O R
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