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WMCHealth Explains What You Need To Know About Living With Alzheimer's

WMCHealth explains some of the early signs of Alzheimer's and what can be done to mitigate the effects.
WMCHealth explains some of the early signs of Alzheimer's and what can be done to mitigate the effects. Photo Credit: Westchester Medical Center

Watching a loved one go through the slow, difficult process of losing their memory due to Alzheimer's is often incredibly difficult for friends and family of those affected by the disease. Westchester Medical Center explains what causes the disease, how it is identified, and explores potential treatment options available in the near future.

Complex Causes

Contrary to what you may have heard, dementia (loss of intelligence due to a pathological cause) and Alzheimer’s are not the same. “There are 81 causes of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is just one of them,” said Dr. Stephen Marks a neurologist and co-chief of Cerebrovascular Diseases and General Neurology at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) in Valhalla. But at least in this part of the world, it’s the major culprit: “Approximately 70 percent of the dementia that we see in the Western world is due to Alzheimer’s,” he explained.

What, then, causes Alzheimer’s? “It’s a complex answer; there seem to be two underlying events,” said Marks. One is the accumulation in the brain of a protein called amyloid. However, the condition that seems to cause brain damage and lower intelligence is the presence of another protein, called tau.

Subtle Symptoms

Given how devastating a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is, it’s understandable that people get nervous when they have a forgetful moment — say, they misplace their glasses —wondering if this might be the onset of the disease. The good news is that it almost certainly isn’t, said Marks. “First of all, a lot of normal people put things down and then don’t remember where they put them. And what’s very common is that people who are exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer’s are oblivious to it,” he said. “So when I get a patient who comes in and is worried they may have Alzheimer’s, they usually don’t have it.”

So what is cause for concern? “Repeating things that you said 5 or 10 minutes ago,” said Marks. Though some people do this occasionally out of nervousness, “telling and retelling the same story to an audience is always a big concern.”

Language skills themselves also may be impaired, and sufferers will find themselves fumbling about for the right word. “It’s interesting: It’s a subtle, ‘Give me, uh, that thing you write with… the pen,’” said Marks. “We all do it a little bit, but people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s use a lot of generalities when they talk sometimes.”

To learn more about options for diagnosis and emerging treatments, continue reading via Advancing Care in the Hudson Valley.

Daily Voice produced this article as part of a paid Content Partnership with our advertiser, Westchester Medical Center

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