Every week Edwin de Vaal (47), general practitioner in Nijmegen, answers a frequently asked or striking question from his practice. Because it is World Alzheimer's Day on Saturday 21 September, the question this week is: what is Alzheimer's and how do you recognize it?
What is Alzheimer's?
"Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. It is a brain disorder in which more and more brain tissue gradually disappears. That leads to loss of brain functions. Patients are gradually losing all their skills. For example, short-term memory and later also long-term memory disappear."
"Other areas of the brain in which routines are anchored are also affected. As a result, people sometimes suddenly no longer know how to make coffee or tie their shoelaces. The behavior also changes and people are less able to express themselves and orientate themselves."
How is the diagnosis made?
"In addition to an extensive conversation, the doctor also tests brain functions by means of a questionnaire. Blood is also sampled if necessary to rule out physical causes of memory loss. Sometimes a vitamin B deficiency, a thyroid disorder, a kidney problem, anemia or cystitis in people with age also cause memory problems or changing behavior. "
"Usually I also speak separately with the person who comes with the patient, the partner or someone else in the immediate vicinity. They are often the ones who first realize that something is wrong."
How do you notice that something is wrong?
"On small things. People with early Alzheimer's often have trouble reading or writing, getting lost easily and forgetting appointments or payments. In the beginning, they are still very good at masking the holes in their memory. For example, they talk about it not have to answer. "
Characteristics of starting Alzheimer's
- Problems with daily activities
- Mistakes with time and place
- Language problems
- Getting rid of stuff
- Poor judgment
- Withdraw from social activities
- Changes in behavior and character
- Talk around it
- Look at the partner if something is asked
"Alzheimer's is a taboo. Patients are often ashamed and sometimes very worried. The environment often finds it difficult to talk about it. Yet it is good to raise the problem. Don't talk about someone, but with someone. Keep always with yourself. Don't say: you forget everything, I think you have Alzheimer's. But say: I'm worried about you, how can I help you? "
Is there a treatment?
"Unfortunately, there is no good medicine or therapy yet. In early-onset Alzheimer's, drugs are sometimes given that could have an inhibitory effect. But in the end, it remains a progressive disease: the patient continues to decline."
Can Alzheimer's be prevented?
"Whether you get Alzheimer's may be partly hereditary and partly due to environmental factors. But to be honest, we don't know well. Healthy living reduces the risk of Alzheimer's. Generally speaking, it is important to keep the brain well for as long as possible. to maintain."
107When should I worry about forgetfulness?
How do we do that?
"By staying physically active. For example, by walking or gardening. Physical activity stimulates the brain. Challenge your brain, for example, by brushing your teeth on one leg. That appeals to all kinds of different brain functions, including your balance."
See also: WHO: Adequate exercise reduces the risk of dementia
How can you challenge your brain even more?
"Stay curious until old age and learn new things: a new piano piece or a new language. Or make your brain crack by making difficult crosswords. Social interaction is also a good way to maintain your brain. By challenging your brain , new connections are made between the different brain cells. "
World Alzheimer's Day is on Saturday 21 September. For more information about Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer Nederland website.