The borderline between mental dysfunctions that affect the human race, especially the elderly, is not always clear. After all, what is dementia, what is Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease? What is the difference between these terms? Well, let’s 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 person’s daily functions. Because Alzheimer’s affects memory and Parkinson’s 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 Alzheimer’s 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 Parkinson’s 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 Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s can be accurately identified, which has made life difficult for doctors for a long time.
In the case of Alzheimer’s, 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 Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s disease or any other dementia alone.
Problems with memory, difficulty mainly in remembering recently learned information, are usually the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
As we age, our brains change and we can occasionally present difficulties to remember some details. However, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cause a loss of memory and other symptoms significant enough to interfere with people’s daily lives. These symptoms are not natural from aging.
In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s 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.
Alzheimer’s Risk factors
Although we still do not understand all the reasons why some people develop Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s disease. Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are 65 years old or older.
Although much less common, premature Alzheimer’s can affect people under 65 years of age. It is estimated that up to 5% of the people with Alzheimer’s patients had the disease prematurely. Premature Alzheimer’s is usually misdiagnosed.
- Family members with Alzheimer’s. If your parents or siblings develop Alzheimer’s, you are more likely to develop the disease than someone who does not have a first-degree Alzheimer’s. Scientists do not fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s disease. The Pawe-E4 gene is the most common risk gene associated with Alzheimer’s; It is estimated that it influences up to 25% of Alzheimer’s cases.
The deterministic genes are different from the risk genes, as they ensure that the person develops the disease.
The only known cause of Alzheimer’s is inheriting a deterministic gene. Alzheimer’s caused by a deterministic gene is rare and possibly occurs in less than 1% of Alzheimer’s cases. When a deterministic gene causes Alzheimer’s, it is named “autosomal disease of the dominant Alzheimer’s (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 Alzheimer’s or other progressive dementias. Porting DCL, mainly DCL that involves memory problems, increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s and other dementias, including smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure in middle age.
- Education and Alzheimer’s. Studies have associated fewer years of formal education with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
- Head trauma. The risk of Alzheimer’s 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.