Know how to spot Alzheimer's early on by paying close attention to these

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, affecting memory, thinking and behavior, according to the Alzheimer's Association. And while Alzheimer's develops mostly in the elderly, those 65 and older, it's not a normal part of the aging process. Alzheimer's is a disease, and it can even develop in those in their 40s and 50s. 

The brain disease progresses over time, and right now doctors don't have a cure. The Alzheimer's Association says the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those diagnosed live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, although survival for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer's can range from four to 20 years, depending on other health conditions.

What causes Alzheimer's?

Researchers still have a lot to learn about the brain disease, but what they do know is that complex brain changes take place before symptoms even become evident. The National Institute on Aging says that damage to the brain appears to start a decade or more before memory, thinking and behavior problems appear. The disease kills nerve cells and tissue throughout the brain, and over time this shrinks the brain and affects nearly all of the brain's functions.
Warning signs

Alzheimer's is a brain disease that causes a gradual decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills, according to the Alzheimer's Association. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms to be aware of, and it's important to note that some people may have different signs or symptoms, and in various degrees.

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. One of the most common forms of memory loss associated with Alzheimer's is forgetting things recently learned, or forgetting important dates or events.

2. Challenges in planning or problem solving. This can be anything from following a familiar recipe or keeping track of bills.

3. Difficulty doing familiar tasks. Whether it's at work, at home, or while doing a favorite activity, people with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks.

4. Confusion with time or place. People with Alzheimer's have trouble with remembering dates, losing track of them and even the passing of time. Sometimes they even forget where they are.

5. Trouble with spatial recognition and vision. Alzheimer's can affect people's ability to read, or even drive, because they can't see well or judge a distance properly.

6. Development of speaking or writing problems. People with Alzheimer's may have a hard time following a conversation, or they may repeat themselves many times. Sometimes they also struggle with finding the right word.

7. Loss of ability to retrace steps, or misplacing things often. People with Alzheimer's might stick things in weird spots, or lose things and not be able to find them by retracing their steps. 

8. Poor judgement. Alzheimer's affects people's judgement and decision making, and it can make them do something they might not have done otherwise, like give away a large sum of money to a telemarketer. 

9. Avoidance of social and work activities. People with Alzheimer's might stop going to their favorite social events or doing their hobbies, because they have trouble remembering their favorite game, or they notice how their social interactions have changed.

10. Changes in mood and personality. Alzheimer's can affect people's mood and even their entire personality. The disease tends to make people confused, suspicious, depressed and even anxious.
What to do if you notice these signs and symptoms

If you notice these signs and symptoms in yourself, a friend or loved one, it's important to get that person to a doctor right away. The Alzheimer's Association even has a checklist you can bring to the doctor's appointment to make sure all the major signs and symptoms are discussed.
Early detection matters

The Alzheimer's Association notes that while the brain disease cannot be cured, an early diagnosis gives patients and their families some opportunities:

- A better chance of benefiting from treatment
- More time to plan for the future
- Reduced anxieties about unknown problems
- Possible participation in clinical drug trials, helping advance research
- An opportunity to participate in importqant decisions about future care, transportation, living options and financial and legal matters
- Time to establish relationships with doctors and care partners
- Access to care and support services, so that patients and their families can more easily manage the disease

There's also a great website and tool called the Alzheimer’s Navigator, which can help identify needs and create actions plans. And while there aren't any cures for Alzheimer's, there are treatments and clinical trials that you can look into for additional help.

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