Alzheimer's Awareness Month: Preventative measures, warning signs

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DENVER (KDVR) – November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and health officials are sending out a message to families imploring them to start using proactive and preventative measures that will lessen the debilitating disease’s reach.

There are few things more challenging than watching a loved one battle memory loss.

That’s why FOX31 spoke with Dr. Ira Chang, the director of Neurocritical Care at the Swedish Medical Center to learn what can be done to spot the disease early, and what preventative measures you can adopt to increase your memory strength.

Expert explains how to spot warning signs of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s typically impacts people older than 65 and is usually a gradually debilitating disease. It is not diagnosed through a blood test but instead is clinical, Chang said.

This means that in order to diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s, a doctor needs to identify and track two or more areas of progressing abnormality. These abnormalities are often noticeable during a triggering-like event.

For example, when a person who is developing the disease but hasn’t yet been diagnosed leaves their normal everyday surroundings, or when a caregiver goes away, this can lead to observable abnormalities in reference to memory retention.

Diagnosing a patient often includes the corroboration of the patient’s family and friends that have witnessed these abnormalities.

What can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s?

The following risk factors are all believed to play a role in advancing Alzheimer’s:

  • Older age 
  • Vascular risk factors 
  • Repeated trauma 
  • Sleep and insomnia
    • People who slept six hours or less per night in their 50s and 60s are more likely to develop dementia later in life.
  • Physical inactivity and social isolation 
  • Toxins including air pollution 
  • Specific long-term medications 
  • Excessive alcohol, drugs and mental illness 

Preventative measures you can take

There are a few prescriptions and medications that slow the progression of dementia. Unfortunately, there is no medication or procedure at this point that completely cures a patient with Alzheimer’s.

Additionally, you can be sure to avoid adopting any of the negatively contributing habits mentioned in the section above.

If you, your friend, or your loved one is facing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you should reach out to a specialist and make an appointment. It is vital to make sure that you get an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

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