Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. According to the National Institute on Aging, “Although we still don’t know what starts the Alzheimer’s disease process, we do know that damage to the brain begins as many as 10 to 20 years before any problems are evident.
Tangles begin to develop deep in the brain, in an area called theentorhinal cortex, and plaques form in other areas. As more and more plaques and tangles form in particular brain areas, healthy neurons begin to work less efficiently.
Then, they lose their ability to function and communicate with each other, and eventually they die. This damaging process spreads to a nearby structure, called the hippocampus, which is essential in forming memories.
As the death of neurons increases, affected brain regions begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimer’s, damage is widespread and brain tissue has shrunk significantly. “
The National Institute on Aging further reports, early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. “Memory problems are one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Some people with memory problems have a condition calledamnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI).People with this condition have more memory problems than normal for people their age, but their symptoms are not as severe as those with Alzheimer’s. More people with MCI, compared with those without MCI, go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Other changes may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, brain imaging and bio marker studies of people with MCI and those with a family history of Alzheimer’s are beginning to detect early changes in the brain like those seen in Alzheimer’s.
These findings will need to be confirmed by other studies but appear promising. Other recent research has found links between some movement difficulties and MCI. Researchers also have seen links between some problems with the sense of smell and cognitive problems. Such findings offer hope that some day we may have tools that could help detect Alzheimer’s early, track the course of the disease, and monitor response to treatments.”
Unfortunately, I know first-hand about this insidious disease. My Mother and step-father were both diagnoses with Alzheimer’s, and I wrote the first book ever published in the United States on caring for aging parents.
My Turn–Caring for Aging Parents & Other Elderly Loved Ones was published in 1996!
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