Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2017

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C h e c k o u t A B M P 's l a t e s t n e w s a n d b l o g p o s t s . Av a i l a b l e a t w w w. a b m p . c o m . 41 pajamas—he could easily have caused a fire or worse. We moved Buddy to a facility specially designed for physically healthy people with dementia. He took it hard—he was taken away from all his friends and the city he'd lived in all his life. He had lots of visits from family, but it was never the same. He lived there for two years—disoriented, disconnected, diminished—until he succumbed to pneumonia in 2008. I miss you, Buddy. It is likely that many readers of this column have their own stories of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia to tell. These conditions affect about 8 percent of people over age 60—close to 6 million people in the United States, and as our population ages, that number is expected to climb. WHAT IS DEMENTIA? Dementia—literally, loss of mental capacity—is not a disease in itself; it is a symptom of some problem in the brain. It is not a part of normal aging. It goes beyond the occasional forgetfulness that is common in old age; it is a sign of substantial neurocognitive decline and a leading cause of disability among senior adults. It is progressive and irreversible. Some people assume that dementia and Alzheimer's disease are synonymous, but this is not the case. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, but not the only form. Let's take a look at the three most common dementing diseases, with a special focus on Alzheimer's disease. WHAT IS ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE? Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. It involves memory loss, personality changes, and, eventually, organ failure and death. Although Alzheimer's disease is mostly seen in older adults, one version affects younger people. In the United States, we think about 200,000 people under the age of 65 may be affected. And, because this population is less likely to have other age- related disorders, they tend to live with the disease for a much longer time. About 70 percent of all cases of dementia are probably related to Alzheimer's disease. HALLMARKS OF ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE: PLAQUES AND TANGLES In 1906, a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer first documented observable aspects of the disease that now bears his name. The two features he found—plaques and tangles—are still the main identifying lesions associated with this condition. Plaques Plaques are the development of deposits of a sticky cellular protein called beta amyloid. This material is found in many places, but in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease it causes problems when it stimulates an inflammatory response— this can damage the plaque-covered cells, but also nearby healthy cells. It is unclear whether plaques cause the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, or whether Alzheimer's-related changes in the brain lead to the accumulation of beta amyloid plaques. However, the discovery that these plaques appear to stimulate an inflammatory response is important. It puts Alzheimer's disease in the same category as other diseases related to chronic, long-term, low- grade inflammation like heart disease and some forms of cancer; and it opens the door to some treatment options that had previously not been considered. Signs and Symptoms The Alzheimer's Association lists these 10 early signs of the disease: • Challenges in planning or solving problems. • Changes in mood and personality. • Confusion with time or place. • Decreased or poor judgment. • Difficulty in completing familiar tasks. • Memory loss that disrupts daily life. • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. • New problems with words in speaking or writing. • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. • Withdrawal from work or social activities. The Alzheimer's Association offers advice about living with dementia at www.alz.org/livewell.

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