Alzheimer’s and Dementia Are Not the Same

Do you get confused when people use these terms? Alzheimer’s and Dementia are interchangeably used so much these days that one can easy mistaken it to have the same meaning. Well, it’s not. While one may form a part of the other, but Alzheimer’s and Dementia are not the same. Here’s an analogy to help to understand and decipher the difference between the two medical terms.

A quick analogy for illustration

Say one day you cough and sneeze a lot but you are unsure why. Since it’s summer you don’t have a cold. So you go to the doctor for a checkup. The doctor checks your breathing and orders a series of tests to help decide the cause. After the test results come in, the doctor is sure what is causing the sneezes. The diagnosis is that you have developed an allergy. It’s the summer and the most common allergy could be due to pollen in the air, etc.

Are you wondering where Alzheimer’s and Dementia come into play here? Well, perhaps you want to read the illustration again because the allergy is the diagnosis – which is dementia. A cough and sneeze are symptoms like memory loss and we’ll talk more about it in a just a bit. The pollen or one cause for dementia is the Alzheimer’s disease. Go ahead, read the analogy again to get a fair idea.

Why it’s important to know the difference

Dementia impacts memory, performance to do things, and communication. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that affects memory and language and gets worse with time. The symptoms, causes and the effects of both Alzheimer’s and Dementia are different. It’s important that you know the difference for management and treatment of the two degenerative diseases. Let’s get to know them one by one.

Dementia is the umbrella term

First, dementia is a syndrome which is a bunch of symptoms. Dementia affects the brain and attacks memory and reasoning of the individual. It is an umbrella under which the Alzheimer’s disease falls. Alzheimer’s is one of the most common causes for the development of dementia. Not the other way around.

There are many types of dementia because it may stem from different causes. No matter the cause, as dementia progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult for an individual to function independently. Although young people can develop dementia, it’s one of the biggest concerns for the elderly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 47 million people affected by dementia all over the world. and Indian houses close to 4.1 million of them. These numbers are expected to double every two decades.

What are the symptoms and causes of dementia?

It is hard to know the symptoms at first because they are not easily seen. You forget where you put the keys or if you have turned off the gas or to switch off the geyser. It starts with simple forgetfulness that seems like an everyday thing. Those having dementia seem to lose track of time.

With time, as the forgetfulness increases so does confusion. People struggle with remembering names and connect faces and eventually, show obvious signs when personal hygiene becomes a problem too. Some of the symptoms of dementia include:

  • Asking same questions repeatedly
  • Questionable hygiene
  • Poor skills for decision-making
  • Difficulty in recalling names and recognising faces
  • Depression
  • Aggression

 Dementia is more likely to occur with age and one of the leading causes if damaged brain cells which are caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. Around 70% of dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s. Other causes include HIV, stroke, depression or drugs.

Alzheimer’s Disease

There is no known cure for the Alzheimer’s disease and the exact cause it yet to be determined. This is a progressive disease wherein; the damaged cells in the brain impair memory and cognitive function. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s are seen after the age of 60 years, although even young people get it too. When it occurs in the elderly, it can be fatal almost within three years of the diagnoses. For young people, it may take longer.

While there is memory and cognitive loss even with the Alzheimer’s disease, just as in dementia, there are other symptoms, which include:

  • Struggle to recall events and conversations
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Struggle to speak, swallow and walking

Overlapping Treatments

Since dementia may have multiple causes such as chronic drug use, stroke, tumor metabolic or thyroid disorders, the treatment of these cases is likely to go well. These are reversible causes. However, irreversible dementia has not treatment to help stop it or cure it.

For Alzheimer’s there is no known treatment. But some antipsychotic medication, pills for memory, sleep, and depression may help the symptoms to be manageable. However, Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness. Depending on the age, the time to death may vary. Some young people live with Alzheimer’s for two decades, others older than 80 years may die within three years of diagnoses.

If you are not sure about the symptoms you or your loved ones may have, speak to your doctor. Getting on the right treatment plan will help you manage the symptoms better.

 

Common Eye Ailments You Need to Be Aware Of

Eye ailments are cynical if you think about it. Problems in your eyes may not happen just with old age. Those can happen to you even if you are as fit as a fiddle. Either way, eyes are your greatest assets and so, it is important to celebrate them. The most important body feature apart from your teeth! Your eyes are the window to your soul but you also consume the world with your eyes. You eat with your eyes first, no? There is no point in taking your eyes for granted, for common eye ailments. Here is what you need to know so you can maintain your eye health to the T.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is contagious and one of the most common eye ailments. It comes in different forms. For instance, the infection can result from having a cold or other viral infection. Wearing infected lenses also are one of the leading causes of this disease. If you are allergic to animals or pollen, your eyes can get dry and itchy; this is the allergic form of conjunctivitis. Antibiotics are best to treat this common eye ailment.

Myopia

Did you ever have trouble looking at far away things? If you’ve been to an eye doctor’s office, this is a routine test given to patients. The test helps the optician to choose the best prescription glasses for you. Myopia can cause things at a distance to appear blurry. This is also known as a refraction error of the eye, so being near-sighted or far-sighted is a part of it. Age is also a factor and is a leading factor in developing myopia after the age of 40. Although wearing the right prescription glasses, taking vitamins may help prevent myopia, there is not enough evidence to prove this. Either way, wearing glasses or the right contact lenses can help cure the refraction errors.

Cataract

Ok so this one is more common with the aging population, but can happen at any age. Regardless, you need to know of this eye ailment. This way, you can prepare yourself and take better care of your eye health before it is too late. The cataract disease affects your lenses, clouding the eyes. It is the leading causes of blindness in most countries. There are many risk factors of cataract such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, just to name a few. You’ll be surprised to know that overexposure to the UV (ultra-violet) rays is one of the main reasons that cause cataract at any age. Untreated cataract causes severe damage to your lenses, causing vision loss. It’s not all that bad, though. The best way to cure yourself out of a cataract condition is a swift surgery – which is covered by most insurance policies too!

Glaucoma

This one is a silent killer – and it’s hereditary. In the sense, it may not show you any real symptoms or signs. This common ailment affects the nerves in your eyes. The prolonged pressure inside the eye can cause serious damage and even vision loss if left untreated. There is evidence that cancer can cause glaucoma. Although this eye ailment cannot be cured, regular visits to the doctor can help you get started on treatments to prevent further damage.

Keratoconus

Just as a robust steel skeleton holds a concrete building in place, so do collagen fibres in your eyes. These fibres keep the shape of your cornea. This is not a common eye ailment, but it isn’t rare either so that’s why we’re talking about it. You need to know of keratoconus because it can be cured with treatment. Otherwise, there is always a keratoconus transplant surgery for this eye ailment.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Yes, diabetes has serious repercussions and a common eye ailment as diabetic Diabetic Retinopathy is one of them. Diabetes gets extreme amounts of blood sugar in your blood. Prolonged high doses of sugar in your blood causes severe damage and rupture to your eyes. With the fast increasing numbers of diabetic patients in the world, keep your eye out for this common eye ailment. Although there is no cure for this (yet) laser treatments and surgical removal of the damage blood vessels in your eye help improve vision.

Macular Degeneration

This is another age-related common eye ailment. You will not believe it but this common ailment has a “Dry” and “wet” form. The dry form takes at least 10 years to complete vision loss. The wet form is more cynical. It’s bad enough that there is no cure AND factors such as smoking and family history increase the risk factors to Macular Degeneration. Then again, there are treatments available now to delay the speed at which this disease progresses. Make sure to see your eye doctor (ophthalmologist) who can help detect any early signs and help you prevent its progression.

Do you know what these common eye ailments have in common? These diseases can be prevented or even cured if detected early. Remember to keep your doctor’s appointments – especially if you wear glasses. See you doctor regularly to make sure you maintain your eye health regardless of your age.

Mercury Rising – Here is How You Can Avoid Heat Stroke

Summer has come and with it, arrived weather-related illnesses. The weather change may bring slight discomfort and fever in little children but everyone has to know of a potential heat stroke. Did you know? Your body is an amazing machine that manages its temperature by producing its own heat in the winter times and cooling the body by sweating in the summer times. Your body can take care of itself around 37 degrees, but as soon as the mercury rises, your body’s mechanisms to cool may not keep up and it should. So, when your body cannot cool itself down in extreme temperatures, heat-related problems creep up.

Heat-Related Illnesses

Hot environments are a threat to your body. The most common heat-related illnesses are heat stroke followed by heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is similar and also serious but not fatal like a heat stroke can be. There is a general weakness, heavy sweating, vomiting, partial loss of consciousness or pale skin.

Whether you are shopping outside, working in your garden or fields, exposure to extreme humidity and heat impedes your body’s ability to cool off. You may get heat rashes, faint due to heat exhaustion but a heat stroke is a deadly condition. If you don’t get to the doctor on time, it can even be fatal. You should know the warning signs of a heat stroke to make sure you and your loved one get immediate medical attention.

Warning signs of a Heat Stroke

If you were having a heat stroke, you may not know it! it’s funny, isn’t it? Well, knowing these signs will help you recognise the discomfort in your loved ones so you can get them help. While the signs may vary in different people, keep a lookout for these warning signs of a heat stroke:

  • No sweat and dry/hot skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Strong pulse or heart rate
  • High temperature (above 39.4 degrees)
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Seizures

What causes heat strokes?

Knowing the causes will help you do things to avoid heat stroke. Any kind of heat-related disease is because of your body’s failed heating and cooling system. When our body sweats, it is a natural way to cool it down. Working out in hot weather, wearing heavy clothing in the heat, consuming alcohol and dehydration are of the causes for heat exhaustion. Feeling exhausted by overheating for an extended amount of time can lead to a heat stroke. Even though anyone experiencing overheating is at risk for a heat stroke, other factors can also increase the risk of heat stroke.

Who is at risk for heat strokes?

As a general rule of thumb, little children under the age of four and seniors over the age of 65 are more at risk for heat-related diseases. This is because their bodies experience difficulty in regulation at such an age.

Do you or your loved one take medication for high blood pressure? Such medications and heart-related illnesses may cause dehydration which increases the risk of heat stroke.

Are you overweight? If you or your loved one weighs more than normal, your body retains heat more and finds it difficult to cool down fast also.

Planning a vacation to a warmer or cooler climate? If you go to a place with extreme temperature, your body may struggle to keep up and maintain balance. If you going to a hotter climate, your body may not regulate itself which may cause a heat stroke.

Focus on preventing heat stroke

Here are five ways to avoid heat stroke.

  1. Avoid overexposure to the sun: Even if you have to work outside, find a cool place in the shade and away from the heat of the sun. If that is not possible, then make sure you take a lot of breaks or reschedule to avoid working in the heat all together. Use sunscreen.
  1. Stay hydrated: Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of heat stroke apart from extended heat exposure. Drink water at regular intervals even before you feel thirsty. Remember, if you are thirsty, then your body is already dehydrated. Seasonal fruits like sugarcane juice, lemon juice, and all sorts of melons are excellent hydrates of the body.
  1. Wear appropriate clothing: Some people have a tendency to put on extra clothes on babies, even in the heat! Avoid this because even babies and little children need to regulate their body temperatures and are more at risk of a heat stroke. If you have to go outside or work outside, make sure to cover your head with a scarf or a hat. Wear cotton clothes that are loose and airy to help instant cooling of our body in the summer heat.
  1. Avoid heat-y foods: Replace caffeine and alcohol with smoothies, fresh fruit or vegetable juices. Eating spicy food also increases your body temperature. So eat light meals to keep your body cool this summer.
  1. Avoid sitting in a hot car: Don’t leave little children, the elderly or your pets in a parked car. In the hot summer heat, cars tend to heat up quickly and as the mercury rises, they are at most risk of heat stroke.

With heat stroke, it’s so important to focus on the prevention methods. Do you have more tips?

Ladies- Are You Paying Enough Attention to Your Bones?

You are a woman of today. You may eat the right food and get a decent amount of exercise. You check your blood pressure levels and take expensive tests to check your cholesterol levels. Thanks to the many breast cancer awareness programs and the pink ribbon displays in December, you are well aware of the importance of breast cancer screenings too. While all this is good, the one area where you may not be paying as much attention is to your bone health.

A startling statistic says one in two women will break a bone after the age of 50. This is because of Osteoporosis which is a degenerative disease that eats away your bones, makes it brittle, and increases the risk for fracture. Women are more susceptible to this disease than men since your bones are smaller compared to men. Besides, a drop in estrogen during menopause also affects your bone health. Estrogen keeps the bones healthy and decreasing levels of it reduces the bone protection. That is why it is very important to pay enough attention to your bones from a young age to prevent bone loss at a later stage.

Another reason to consider is the disease of Osteoporosis doesn’t give you visible signals. From as young as 35 years of age, most people lose bone density. If you don’t prevent or stop this from happening to you then the symptoms eventually lead to Osteoporosis. Certain lifestyle habits such as smoking, too much alcohol use, and eating disorders can also lead to Osteoporosis. Besides, if either of your parents has it then there is a 50 percent chance you would inherit it too. So what can you do? Thankfully, there are many ways to keep your bone density levels steady at any age.

Know Your Bone Density

If you want to prevent it, you must know where you stand first. You can know your bone density through a test like a Dexa Scan. Don’t worry, it’s like taking an x-ray; not an invasive procedure. This specific scan reads into your bone health. It is advisable to take this scan as soon as you or your loved one starts menopause. Once you know your point range, you can take effective steps to prevent bone loss.

Increase Your Calcium & Vitamin D

Since your body can’t make calcium on its own, it important to replenish all the calcium you lose daily. Vitamin D is important because it improves the absorption of calcium in your body. If you are under the age of 50, then you should get about 1000 mg of calcium every day coupled with 400-800 IUs of Vitamin D. If you are older than 50, then aim for 1200 mg of calcium and double the amount of Vitamin D. You may not achieve these goals through diet alone. So speak to your doctor about taking proper supplements or change your diet to accommodate it all.

Take in bone-rich nutrition

If you want to meet the calcium and vitamin D from diet alone then you need at least three servings of calcium in your daily diet. Milk is a great source of calcium and so are milk products such as yogurt and cheese. If you are lactose intolerant or find that you have trouble digesting milk after a certain age, then consider eating more servings of dark leafy vegetables like spinach, ladies finger, broccoli, etc.

Replace the fracture-risking drugs

Certain medicines increase the fracture risk. So be open to your doctor about what medications you are taking. Are you wondering which medications might those be? The long-term use of medications such as steroids, some of the cancer medications, and others used to treat thyroid problems are risky. If you’re a frequent user of an antacid that has an aluminum coating, then you are at higher risk of fracture too.

You must move it, move it!

If you think moving around too much will increase the fracture risk, think again. Even if you grow older, your body needs to move. You need to exercise as much as four times a week. You can also go for walks every day to stay active. If you are in a job that keeps you seated most of the day, take a break every 40 minutes to an hour to get up and get moving. If you feel like any part of your body is beginning to get stiff, stretch it gently for five minutes.

Most importantly, pay attention to your lifestyle. If you are a smoker, this is another reason to cut down or quit this bad habit. If you are a heavy drinker, stick to just one or two glasses a day or keep it to a minimum. Get ample amount of rest, nutrition and remember to exercise regularly keep your bones fit and healthy!

The Shifting Goalposts Of Popular Health Parameters And What Those Mean For Us

Here’s the irony we all seem to live with – while technology is giving us more and more opportunities to stay ahead of time, somewhere it is also making us too dependent on circumstances. The changing focus on health concerns rightly compliments this argument. While every person, irrespective of profession and gender, ideally needs to take care of health and stay fit, this is all the more true for working professionals who deal with long and stressful work hours. Consequently, diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid top the list of most common health concerns faced by the working class.

Change in Health Parameters

Earlier the parameter set to identify if a person was diabetic, for example, was if the fasting blood sugar level was above 140 (i.e. 140 milligrams of glucose per decilitre of blood). However, in 1997, the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus brought down the number to 126. This was probably more from a preventive point of view wherein; experts felt that sooner a condition was treated better the chances of a person from avoiding the dreaded health condition altogether. Unfortunately, this decision meant that all of a sudden almost 1.6 million people who were otherwise “healthy” (since their blood sugar level was in the previous good range of 126-140) suddenly were declared diabetic. The same goes for measuring cholesterol. While the cholesterol level earlier was considered a risk at 300, over the years as research progressed it came down to 240 and eventually has settled at 200, thus bringing in almost 42 million people in the category of high cholesterol patients.

The other health problem which is seen to greatly impact the population is thyroid. Thyroid, too, was always a concern but never with the same gravity that it demands now. Hypothyroidism affects about 4-5% of the people across the globe and in India, one in ten adults go through it. Statistics state that women are much more at a risk and need to take precautions from early on. Such numbers further promote research and force the medical fraternity to take the results even more seriously. However, the more focus the problems get, the more the number of people seem to “suffer” from it.

Change in the Treatment Outlook

As a result, the treatment patterns also have considerably undergone a change. Everyone now stresses on preventive measures vis-à-vis earlier times when a health problem was treated as and when it occurred. It could be because of the fact that since there is so less time to spare, people prefer taking extra cautions to stay healthy rather than later spend time making visits to a doctor. From the doctors’ perspective, they would prefer avoiding an unwarranted health scare by prescribing medicines to counter a possible situation than having to deal with it at a later stage. It also implies monetary profits for the healthcare business sector. That makes the increasingly lowered threshold levels slightly difficult to accept. But for the common man, the risk seems too great compared to money spent.

Resultant Situation

More importantly, what this situation has resulted in is an over-cautious generation. Lowered ideal health range levels may make people take cognisance of their eating habits, exercise routines, and so on. But they also forget the fact that excessively worrying about a certain health aspect will not take away the problem entirely; while cholesterol is the primary cause of a heart attack it can also occur due to unhealthy lifestyles, smoking, etc. Another example is of the BMI (Body Mass Index). In the beginning, BMI was essentially used as a measure for body weight, and, thus, to basically remain in the healthy bracket. It helped in predicting cardiovascular diseases or nutritional competencies. Now, as with other health parameters expanding their scope, so has this simple figure. Health specialists have lately arrived at a Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR) which when used along with the BMI apparently better predicts more serious disorders such as diabetes, lipid problems, atherosclerosis, and so on.

In some ways, this sounds greatly helpful. Yet, it is also important to remember that over-diagnosis can be problematic as well. Imagine the number of medicines one consumes these days. Somewhere it makes the body immune to certain strains of those medicines and hence when the real need arises, it is doubtful if that medicine will really have a positive effect. Many times, people even ignore the side effects of taking extra medications, just to ward off a future possible concern. The number of treatments available is endless as well. It is thus up to the educated us to decide whether we will allow ourselves to be supposedly called “unhealthy” and where to stop in this vicious circle.