We still don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but we’re finding that there are a lot of things we can do to slow down the progression of the disease. That means understanding what we know about the disease, and being able to recognize the warning signs.

Karin Gallagher, of Maplewood of Marshall, was a guest on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins for the “Miles for Memories” segment.

What is dementia?

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning.  That means a loss of thinking, remembering, reasoning, and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.  According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.  It's estimated that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s.

How does the disease affect the brain?

As people age, protein clumps called tangles and plaques develop in the brain.  In Alzheimer’s, too many tangles and plaques build up, blocking nerve cells in different areas of the brain.  Blocked cells do not receive what they need to survive, so they die and that part of the brain shrinks.

Early detection is so important and difficult

Mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin when the cells die and worsen over several years.  For most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid- 60s.  Unfortunately, it seems that damage to the brain begins a decade or more before memory loss and other cognitive problems appear, and it’s not until the disease progresses and people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties that diagnosis occurs.

10 Warning signs of Alzheimer’s

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problem with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

Miles for Memories is creating solutions for those impacted by dementia in Calhoun County through movement, programming, and research.  You can find them on Facebook..  Or visit the www.Milesformemories.org

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