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Facts About Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia IS NOT the name of a specific disease, but is a word used to describe the mental condition of a person whose memory is impaired and whose problems with processing information are severe enough to interfere with his or her ability to function normally. People born with Down Syndrome will eventually develop dementia.
Alzheimer's Disease
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)There are two types, two forms and two categories of Alzheimer's:
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Types: Early and Late Onset
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Forms: Left Temporal Lobe and Right Temporal Lobe
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Categories: Sporadic and Hereditary
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Alzheimer's Disease Progresses in stages:
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)By stage 5, the brain is already 50% destroyed by Alzheimer's.
The Hippocampus is one of the earliest areas of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer's. The day the Hippocampus is destroyed by Alzheimer's, the person will lose the ability to recall the last 3 years of their life. Why? Because the Hippocampus is essential to memory storage.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)By stage 6, their ability to remember what has been told to them, is now down to 5 minutes. They will slowly lose their peripheral vision. And that is why it is so important that you approach your loved one from the front. It is the only way they will see you coming.

A person with Alzheimer's may revert back to a native tongue if their primary language was not English.

About 14% of all Alzheimer's victims develop something called Akathesia (termed restless pacing, which is the inability to control pacing. These victims are easily identified because they are constantly moving, staying in one place no longer than a few seconds.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)By stage 7, their abilities are reduced to that of a few week old child. Your loved one may suffer bowel and bladder accidents because they cannot remember what the sensations mean.

Many people with Alzheimer's develop Visual Agnosia, which is the inability to comprehend what they see.

After it destroys the Hippocampus in the brain, it then moves on into the Parietal lobe. Once there, the person may hallucinate, suffer seizures, and lose the ability to speak, to read, and to recognize places, objects, and faces, even of family members. [ middle stages of Alzheimer's ]

Final area of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer's is the Motor Cortex. By then the person can no longer walk, talk or swallow. Pneumonia may set in when bits of food are inhaled. [ late stages of Alzheimer's ]

As the devastation moves through the brain, it follows a course that corresponds to the person's symptoms. The first nerves to die are in the hippocampus, where memories are stored. The destruction then moves to the parietal lobe and finally the cortex [the outer layer of the brain] which controls your ability to speak, and walk.

Source: Marsha Penington, 1998
Forgetfulness: 7 Types of Normal Memory Problems

Itís normal to forget things from time to time, and itís normal to become somewhat more forgetful as you age, but itís not normal to forget too much. But how much forgetfulness is too much?

How can you tell whether your memory lapses are within the scope of normal aging or are a symptom of something more serious?

Healthy people can experience memory loss or memory distortion at any age. Some of these memory flaws become more pronounced with age, but ó unless they are extreme and persistent ó they are not considered indicators of Alzheimerís or other memory-impairing illnesses.
Seven normal memory problems:
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)1. Transience

This is the tendency to forget facts or events over time.

You are most likely to forget information soon after you learn it. However, memory has a use-it-or-lose-it quality: memories that are called up and used frequently are least likely to be forgotten.

Although transience might seem like a sign of memory weakness, brain scientists regard it as beneficial because it clears the brain of unused memories, making way for newer, more useful ones.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)2. Absentmindedness
This type of forgetting occurs when you donít pay close enough attention.

You forget where you just put your pen because you didnít focus on where you put it in the first place. You were thinking of something else (or, perhaps, nothing in particular), so your brain didnít encode the information securely.

Absentmindedness also involves forgetting to do something at a prescribed time, like taking your medicine or keeping an appointment.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)3. Blocking
Someone asks you a question and the answer is right on the tip of your tongue ó you know that you know it, but you just canít think of it.

This is perhaps the most familiar example of blocking, the temporary inability to retrieve a memory.

In many cases, the barrier is a memory similar to the one youíre looking for, and you retrieve the wrong one. This competing memory is so intrusive that you canít think of the memory you want. A common example is calling your older son by your younger sonís name, or vice versa.

Scientists think that memory blocks become more common with age and that they account for the trouble older people have remembering other peopleís names. Research shows that people are able to retrieve about half of the blocked memories within just a minute.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)4. Misattribution
Misattribution occurs when you remember something accurately in part, but misattribute some detail, like the time, place, or person involved.

Another kind of misattribution occurs when you believe a thought you had was totally original when, in fact, it came from something you had previously read or heard but had forgotten about.

This sort of misattribution explains cases of unintentional plagiarism, in which a writer passes off some information as original when he or she actually read it somewhere before.

As with several other kinds of memory lapses, misattribution becomes more common with age.

Age matters in at least two ways. First, as you age, you absorb fewer details when acquiring information because you have somewhat more trouble concentrating and processing information rapidly. Second, as you grow older, your memories grow older as well. And old memories are especially prone to misattribution.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)5. Suggestibility
Suggestibility is the vulnerability of your memory to the power of suggestion ó information that you learn about an occurrence after the fact becomes incorporated into your memory of the incident, even though you did not experience these details.

Although little is known about exactly how suggestibility works in the brain, the suggestion fools your mind into thinking itís a real memory.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)6. Bias
Even the sharpest memory isnít a flawless snapshot of reality.

In your memory, your perceptions are filtered by your personal biases ó experiences, beliefs, prior knowledge, and even your mood at the moment.

Your biases affect your perceptions and experiences when theyíre being encoded in your brain. And when you retrieve a memory, your mood and other biases at that moment can influence what information you actually recall.

Although everyoneís attitudes and preconceived notions bias their memories, thereís been virtually no research on the brain mechanisms behind memory bias or whether it becomes more common with age.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)7. Persistence
Most people worry about forgetting things. But in some cases people are tormented by memories they wish they could forget, but canít.

The persistence of memories of traumatic events, negative feelings, and ongoing fears is another form of memory problem.

Some of these memories accurately reflect horrifying events, while others may be negative distortions of reality.

People suffering from depression are particularly prone to having persistent, disturbing memories. So are people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can result from many different forms of traumatic exposure ó for example, sexual abuse or wartime experiences. Flashbacks, which are persistent, intrusive memories of the traumatic event, are a core feature of PTSD.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Remedies
There are many things we can do to protect our brain so that it can perform sharply and vigorously for decades upon decades.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)One of them is to manage stress.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Another is to manage sleep.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)A third is to exercise regularly and vigorously.

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Another is to eat a diet high in natural anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants. And to supplement with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants that work particularly effectively in the brain (like gingko) and other nutrients known to support brain health and memory.

Source: Harvard Medical School
Copyright © 2000 Siakhenn
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