It’s often thought that cognitive decline goes hand in hand with getting older, and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease are just a normal part of the ageing process. This is in fact not the case. Some cases of dementia are preventable and improving brain health is something that can start at any age, not only is it important in helping to prevent dementia but also to lead a healthier life.
However, to be aware is to be better prepared, so here’s what you need to know about Alzheimer’s disease including the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and most importantly the best way to try to prevent it.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is the name given to a group of symptoms that are associated with an ongoing decline of the functioning of the brain including memory, thinking skills and other mental abilities¹. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet known, but some factors that are thought to affect it include increased age, family history, untreated depression and lifestyle factors associated with cardiovascular disease¹.
Top signs of Alzheimer’s
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s progress slowly over several years and can start with early signs such as minor memory problems including forgetting about recent conversations or events, misplacing items or asking questions repetitively. As the disease progresses, other symptoms can develop such as increasing confusion or disorientation, problems with speech and language and difficulty performing special tasks, such as judging distances².
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s
A diagnosis of dementia offers a better understanding of the condition and what’s up ahead along with access to treatment, advice and support. The best place to start is by making an appointment to see your GP. There is no single test for Alzheimer’s but a GP will rule out other conditions with similar symptoms and if need be refer someone to a specialist who will be able to assess the person’s symptoms³. There are also brain scans available that can help in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease⁴. Doctors can also measure changes in cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers (CSF) as a tool to help in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia⁴.
Treatment/prevention of Alzheimer’s
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. There are some medicines that are available that can help to temporarily reduce symptoms⁵. Other treatments include activities and therapy that can help with improving memory and problem-solving skills. These include cognitive stimulation therapy, cognitive rehabilitation and reminiscence and life story work⁵. Given that there are limited treatment options available, prevention is important.
The good news is that making strategic lifestyle tweaks can help to improve brain health, which can and in turn reduce the risk of developing dementia. At Five Lives, we focus on improving the five lifestyle pillars of brain health: diet, sleep, physical activity, stress & mood and mental stimulation. By making some key improvements in these areas, you can work actively in looking after your brain throughout your life. We know making these changes can be a little confusing or even daunting at times, so we’ve created a digital coach that offers practical, actionable tips to help improve the five key pillars. Cognitive decline isn’t a normal part of ageing, and it’s something that is never too late to address, in fact, there’s never been a better time to start than now :).