The borderline between mental dysfunctions that affect the human race, especially the elderly, is not always clear. After all, what is dementia, what is Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease? What is the difference between these terms? Well, lets explain.
Dementia is a broad term, an umbrella under which all physical and mental symptoms are included that are severe enough to interfere with a persons daily functions. Because Alzheimers affects memory and Parkinsons disrupts motor functions, they can both be defined as dementias.
Here are the main visible symptoms of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, USA): speech difficulties, memory loss, lack of decision-making power, confusion, and changes in personality and mood. People with dementia may also lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. It is the pathway to which Alzheimers disease is usually directed.
Other symptoms include difficulty in coordination and motor functions, paranoia, agitation, and hallucinations, with impairment in work and social activities. In this case, they are indicative of a possible Parkinsons disease.
Doctors use a battery of tests to determine the cause of dementia. These are blood tests, mental status assessment, neuropsychological tests and brain scans. In 90% of cases, doctors can now accurately diagnose the cause of dementia symptoms. But we can not generalize the term: some brain diseases, which are related to organic factors (such as protein synthesis disorder) but are not dementia itself.
The most notorious among dementias is even Alzheimers disease. According to a US study, it accounts for between 50% and 70% of brain dysfunction in people over 65 years. However, it is only after death, when the brain is already at the autopsy, that Alzheimers can be accurately identified, which has made life difficult for doctors for a long time.
In the case of Alzheimers, they are proteins that impede the functioning of the brain, affecting and limiting portions of the brain that control memory, abstract thinking, judgment, behavior, movement, and language. In more severe cases, the person even loses the ability to recognize himself and his family.
Around the world, at least 44 million people live with dementia, making the disease a global health crisis that must be resolved.
A diagnosis of Alzheimers changes the life of the person with the disease, in addition to the lives of their family and friends, but currently, there is information and support available. No one needs to face Alzheimers disease or any other dementia alone.
Problems with memory, difficulty mainly in remembering recently learned information, are usually the first symptoms of Alzheimers disease.
As we age, our brains change and we can occasionally present difficulties to remember some details. However, Alzheimers disease and other dementias cause a loss of memory and other symptoms significant enough to interfere with peoples daily lives. These symptoms are not natural from aging.
In addition to memory loss, Alzheimers symptoms include:
- Problems to complete tasks that were once easy.
- Trouble-solving problems.
- Changes in mood or personality; Estrangement from friends and family.
- Problems with communication, both written and spoken.
- Confusion about locals, people, and events.
- Visual changes, such as problems to understand images.
Family and friends may notice the symptoms of Alzheimers and other progressive dementias before the person who is going through these changes. If you, or someone you know, are feeling the possible symptoms of dementia, it is important to seek a medical evaluation to find the cause of these symptoms.
Alzheimers Risk factors
Although we still do not understand all the reasons why some people develop Alzheimers disease and others do not, research has provided us with a better understanding of which factors expose them to a greater risk.
- Age. The advancement of age is the biggest risk factor for the development of Alzheimers disease. Most people diagnosed with Alzheimers are 65 years old or older.
Although much less common, premature Alzheimers can affect people under 65 years of age. It is estimated that up to 5% of the people with Alzheimers patients had the disease prematurely. Premature Alzheimers is usually misdiagnosed.
- Family members with Alzheimers. If your parents or siblings develop Alzheimers, you are more likely to develop the disease than someone who does not have a first-degree Alzheimers. Scientists do not fully understand what causes Alzheimers in families, but genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors can influence.
- Genetic. Researchers have identified several genetic variations that increase the chances of the development of Alzheimers disease. The Pawe-E4 gene is the most common risk gene associated with Alzheimers; It is estimated that it influences up to 25% of Alzheimers cases.
The deterministic genes are different from the risk genes, as they ensure that the person develops the disease.
The only known cause of Alzheimers is inheriting a deterministic gene. Alzheimers caused by a deterministic gene is rare and possibly occurs in less than 1% of Alzheimers cases. When a deterministic gene causes Alzheimers, it is named “autosomal disease of the dominant Alzheimers (ADAD, in the acronym in English)”.
- Mild cognitive deficiency (DCL). Symptoms of DCL include changes in the ability to think, but these symptoms do not interfere with everyday life and are not as serious as those caused by Alzheimers or other progressive dementias. Porting DCL, mainly DCL that involves memory problems, increases the risk of developing Alzheimers and other dementias. However, DCL is not always progressive. In some cases, it can be reversible or stay stable.
- Cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that the health of the brain is strongly related to the health of the heart and blood vessels. The brain obtains from the blood the oxygen and nutrients necessary for its normal functioning, and the heart is responsible for pumping blood into the brain. Therefore, factors that cause cardiovascular disease may also be related to a higher risk of developing Alzheimers and other dementias, including smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure in middle age.
- Education and Alzheimers. Studies have associated fewer years of formal education with a higher risk of Alzheimers and other dementias. There is no clear reason for this association, but some scientists believe that more years of formal education can help to increase the connections between neurons, allowing the brain to use alternative routes of communication between neurons when occurring Changes related to Alzheimers and other dementias.
- Head trauma. The risk of Alzheimers disease and other dementias increases after a moderate or severe cranial trauma, such as a head injury or skull wound that causes amnesia or loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes. 50% head trauma is caused by automobile accidents. People who receive brain injuries repeatedly, like athletes and wrestlers, also have a greater risk of developing dementia and deficiencies in the ability to think.