June is National Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

By EVELYN JACKSON COLUMNIST,

For those who know me, they are well aware that purple is my favorite color. That being said, this month is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and guess what the awareness color is? It’s purple.

Worldwide, 47 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. No matter how common it may be, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain. It is defined by progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common form of dementia. Because it is a progressive disease, symptoms gradually worsen over the years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but late-stage Alzheimer’s can affect an individual’s ability to communicate and respond to his or her environment.

Researchers have known for several years that being overweight and having Type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. But they’re now beginning to talk about another form of diabetes: Type 3 diabetes. This form of diabetes is associated with Alzheimer's disease.Type 3 diabetes occurs when neurons in the brain become unable to respond to insulin, which is essential for basic tasks, including memory and learning. Some researchers believe insulin deficiency is central to the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease. Mayo Clinic’s Florida and Rochester campuses recently participated in a multi-institution clinical study, testing whether a new insulin nasal spray can improve Alzheimer’s symptoms. The results of that study are forthcoming.

If your loved one is experiencing a decline in memory, thinking or reasoning skills, it may be a sign your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Here are some of the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (Signs and symptoms may vary from one individual to the next.)

• Memory loss that disrupts daily life

• Challenges in planning or solving problems

• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

• Confusion with time or place

• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

• New problems with words in speaking or writing

• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

• Decreased or poor judgement

• Withdrawal from work or social activities

• Changes in mood and personality

Unlike Alzheimer’s, dementia is not a specific disease, Rather, dementia is a general term used to describe any mental decline that is severe enough to interfere with one’s daily life. Dementia can be marked by memory disorders, personality changes and impaired reasoning. Any diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s can be unsettling, both for the one living with dementia, and his or her loved ones. If you have received this diagnosis for yourself, or your loved one, do not lose hope. There is support for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit alz.org.

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