Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s disease
Have you questioned if your loved one is suffering from memory loss? Dementia is a wide spread condition that many individuals 65 and older experience. Education is the key in fighting or prolonging the devastating effects of dementia. Recognizing the symptoms and differences can be life changing when seeking medical attention.
Dementia according to the CDC is a broad term used to describe types of cognitive disorders. Generally, dementia disorders are characterized by memory impairment, as well as marked difficulty in the domains of language, motor activity, object recognition, and the disturbance of executive functions. Examples of these types of cognitive breakdowns would be the ability to plan, organize, and think abstractly. Dementia is generally recognized as an illness of older adults and Alzheimer’s disease is simply a type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the more widely recognized of the dementias, but, it is not the only type of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is defined as a progressive disease of the brain. It is believed by scientists to be the result of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. Less than 5 percent of the time, Alzheimer’s is caused by specific genetic changes. The causes of Alzheimer’s are not yet fully understood, but its effect on the brain is clear. Alzheimer’s disease damages and kills brain cells. A brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease has fewer cells and connections compared to a healthy brain.
Brain tissue affected by Alzheimer’s disease displays two types of abnormalities that are considered hallmarks of the disease:
The first is known as “Plaques”. These are clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid. These protein clumps can damage and destroy brain cells in several ways, and interfering with cell-to-cell communication. Though the ultimate cause of brain-cell death in Alzheimer’s is unknown, it is strongly believed that the collection of beta-amyloid proteins on the outside of damaged brain cells are the prime suspects.
The second is known as “Tangles”. Brain cells require internal support and a transport system. These systems allow the brain to carry nutrients and other essential materials throughout their long extensions. These systems are possible when the tau protein is healthy and functioning properly within brain cells. When the tau proteins begins to twist into abnormal “Tangles” system failure occurs. Transport is stopped and doesn’t care or respond as it should. It is this failure that is strongly implicated in the decline and death of brain cells experienced by Alzheimer’s sufferers.
It’s these complications that lead to visible symptoms and signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is only one type of dementia there are several different types of vascular dementia.
Join Evangelical Homes of Michigan, Glacier Hills Senior Living, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan and United Methodist Retirement Communities on Feb. 8, 2015 at 7pm at Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI for the screening of Glen Campbell’s “I’ll Be Me” a journey of how he and his family navigated through the unpredictable terrain of this progressive disease.
CDC – Dementia & Alzheimer’s disease (Oct. 4, 2013) : http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics/mental-illness/dementia.htm
Mayo Clinic – Diseases & Conditions Alzheimer’s disease (July, 17,2014) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/basics/causes/CON-20023871