Is It Alzheimer’s or Dementia or Memory Loss?

Alzheimer's or dementiaCan’t Find Your Keys? Forgetting Simple Things?Are You Losing Your Mind?

As we age we have more and more of those moments when we think we are literally “losing our minds!” The simplest of things become harder to recall, and we find ourselves asking whether this is normal “forgetfulness,” or something more serious, like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are two related conditions, but they are not exactly the same thing. Many people get confused when discussing the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, incorrectly using these two terms interchangeably. But there is a big difference.

Alzheimer’s is actually a specific and more serious type of dementia and brain damage, but not all types of dementia are Alzheimer’s. There is also a difference between Alzheimer’s, dementia, and mild memory loss which most of us suffer as we age. My wife’s Father has early onset Alzheimer’s so I have taken a personal interest in the disease as I am seeing first hand what it is doing to him, his caregivers, and immediate family.

Age-Related Memory Loss

As you age, you can expect to experience some normal signs of occasional memory loss (like misplacing keys, becoming easily distracted, or occasionally forgetting someone’s name). This is normal “age related” memory loss. We all suffer from it.

How To Improve Your Memory As You Age

If you want to improve your memory, there are several things you can do. Start by staying both physically and mentally active. Exercise several days a week and do puzzles or other things that challenge your brain like learning a new instrument, or in my case, learning to fly. As I write this article my wife is on the couch with her Mom showing her a brain game called Luminosity that is available in the App Store. It’s pretty popular and provides mental challenges and games to sharpen and focus your brain. Be sure to get plenty of sleep, aiming for seven to eight hours per night and take steps to manage your stress (like doing yoga or meditation) because stress can contribute to memory loss. Also, look for ways to stay socially engaged as social interaction can help combat stress and depression, as well as stimulate memory through verbal communication. Get better organized by writing down appointments in your calendar and keeping to-do lists. I use Wunderlist (its also in the App Store). Its great for list taking and managing to-do lists.

Another trick I use is “daily recall.” It works like this:

At the end of each day I try and recall the specific details of the last 24 hours−everything from the name of the local barista that served my coffee, to the news headlines I read, as well as names and other events that preceded the last 24 hours. I then try and go back 48 hours−running the events through my mind as I try and recall as much as possible. It’s a great trick and really helps develop your recall and memory.

Your diet also plays a role in preserving your memory. Eat plenty of fruits (like berries), vegetables (especially green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach), and whole grains. Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids each week and organic lean proteins. Stay hydrated, but limit alcohol consumption. It’s super important to also reduce the amount of sugar and processed food in your diet and to increase your intake of healthy fats like MCT oil (from coconuts), nuts, and avocados. Some supplements for brain health can also help including Vitamin D3, Ginkgo Biloba, and Acetyl L-Carnitine.

Stress relief also plays a big part in helping with recall and mental sharpness. I know from personal experience that when I have “brain freeze,” a weekend away or a day without email, goes a long way to restoring my focus. Stepping away from the daily burdens of emails, to-do lists, and the pressures of life clears your mind and frees up the brain synapses to reconnect again.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a more involved brain disorder that consistently affects your communication and ability to perform daily activities. Unlike “age related” memory loss, dementia is more consistent and regular in its symptoms. Early signs of dementia include:

  • searching for common words,
  • having trouble making choices,
  • pausing midsentence as if lost in thought,
  • having difficulty following the flow of conversation,
  • confusing word meanings,
  • repeating questions or statements,
  • experiencing mood changes (such as random anger or sadness),
  • failing to follow instructions,
  • frequently forgetting parts of conversations and appointments
  • frequently putting items in the wrong place, and
  • sometimes getting lost while walking or driving.

There are several possible causes of dementia. While Alzheimer’s is one of the most common causes, several other diseases and health problems can cause or mimic dementia as well. Other common causes of dementia include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Low levels of Vitamin D
  • Medications (including certain antidepressants, antihistamines, narcotics, corticosteroids, sedatives, anticonvulsants, cardiovascular drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, and drugs for Parkinson’s disease)

Getting the right treatment or changing medication can reverse signs of dementia in certain cases. That’s why it’s important to see your doctor to determine the cause of the symptoms. If you are concerned about dementia for yourself or a loved one, see a doctor for testing, diagnosis, and guidance.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that involves the actual destruction of brain cells and tissue responsible for memory. This devastating disease causes 50 to 70% of all dementia cases. It is not reversible or curable, but there are ways to help patients in the early stages of the disease through nutrition and other lifestyle changes.

Alzheimer’s specifically affects the parts of the brain that control language, thought, and memory. The disease leads to the death of nerve cells and actual loss of tissue throughout the brain, causing brain shrinkage and brain damage. There are lesions in the brain that accumulate in areas that are involved with learning and language. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include impaired thought, impaired speech, and confusion.

How Do I Know If It’s Alzheimer’s?

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease might exhibit behaviors such as:

  • placing keys or the phone in odd places, like the refrigerator;
  • forgetting the names of family members and common objects;
  • forgetting entire conversations;
  • dressing inappropriately, such as shorts in a blizzard or several layers on a hot day;
  • getting lost in familiar places;
  • experiencing rapid moods swings for no reason; and
  • withdrawing socially and from usual interests.

Testing For Alzheimer’s

Doctors can screen patients to determine whether they have Alzheimer’s or dementia. These tests involve blood tests, brain scans, and mental status evaluations. At this time, Alzheimer’s is considered degenerative and incurable, so that sets it apart from other kinds of dementia, which may be reversible with treatment, brain training, and lifestyle adjustments.

What Can You Do About It?

In the very early stages of Alzheimer’s it’s important to manage the disease through diet and eating healthy foods and “good fats” such as oily fish, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. You should also avoid eating gluten, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods. Recent research also shows that a lifestyle factors like doing yoga and meditating help patients in the early stages of disease. In the later stages the patient will require more involved care and may need to move to an assisted living facility or special care unit. Dealing with Alzheimer’s disease for either yourself or a loved one can be scary and overwhelming, so it important to stay informed of ways to help cope with the situation.

Knowing the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia can help you in seeking the right kind of immediate and long-term care for yourself or the patient. Even though both dementia and Alzheimer’s are concerning, Alzheimer’s is a much more serious, ongoing, and worsening condition.

Getting Help for Alzheimer’s

If you are dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia (or even some minor memory loss) in your family, be sure to research more about diet, lifestyle, and ways to manage the situation. Being a caregiver to a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is very stressful and difficult, so getting the right help as early in the disease process will set you up for the most success in being able to manage these situations.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. is affiliated with Prost-P10x.

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