Recognizing Signs Of Alzheimer’s

By on Wednesday, 13th July 2011

Every 70 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s. It’s a progressive disease that causes physical changes deep inside the brain. Even before brain changes are detected, there may be outward signs.

News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton talked about the changes Alzheimer’s brings and shared some warning signs from the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Signs list.

What are some of the outward signs?

According to Ashton, there are three big warning signs that other people can observe in someone.

The first Alzheimer’s Association Warning sign, she says, is losing track of time and place.

  • Confusion with time or place:

    “We can all forget a day once in a while, but we’re talking about not knowing what season it is, not remembering what day it is as the day goes on. So that’s really a big one,” she said.

  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships:

    “The second one has to do with problems with spatial coordination. You could look into a mirror, not recognize yourself in the mirror,” she explained. “You can imagine how frightening and upsetting that would be, or have trouble judging distance.”

  • New problems with words in speaking or writing:

    “The third one is new problems with words, reading or writing. You could look at a clock and call it a ‘hand watch’ and not be able to get the right word,” Ashton said. “Again, once in a while in a conversation we might grasp for a word, but not being able to remember an important word is a key one.”

    What are some of the inward signs? What does a brain look like when someone has Alzheimer’s?

    Using a graphic animation of a healthy brain and an Alzheimer’s brain, (see the video on the left) Ashton showed how you can see the difference between the two.

    “You see all these wrinkles on top of the normal brain, called the cortex. On the healthy side it’s pretty fluffy, especially [the] area in the cortex involved in language and reasoning and higher level thoughts,” she said.

    When looking at the Alzheimer’s brain, it gets shrunken, she explains.

    “This is called a ventricle. It a little gets bigger,” she said. “This is the hippocampus, important for new memory and processing memory and recollection, gets a lot bigger. All of these problems result in a shrunken brain and the brain doesn’t function well.”

    If you have any outward or inward signs, what do you do?

    Ashton says the most important thing if you notice these signs in someone is to get them to a doctor and have them formally evaluated.

    “The earlier that you can diagnose Alzheimer’s, the faster you can start to intervene possibly with new treatments, planning your life – and really that is key. This is affecting a lot of people,” she said.

    Click here to learn more about the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

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