We talked with a neurologist at the Clinical Hospital on Yauza, Ph. D. Violetta Tolchmacheva.
Renowned journalist and producer Maria Shriver released the 2009 Emmy award-winning documentary "Project Alzheimer: Recordings of Lost Memory". Here is what she said about the disease: “It doesn't matter who you are, what you have achieved and what your financial condition is - when you have Alzheimer's in your family, you feel helpless. Because your loved one cannot work, cannot live on his own, he is completely dependent on others, like a small child. And you never know what to expect."
In fact, when we talk about dementia or the so-called senile dementia, we mean a complex of symptoms, so-called cognitive impairments. The reasons behind this may be different. In the first place among the causes of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. In this disease, toxic proteins are deposited and accumulated in the brain around nerve cells, leading to the death of neurons. The bad news is that in many ways, the development of Alzheimer's disease is predetermined genetically, and we can not prevent what is inherent in nature. According to the most conservative projections, by 2050 the number of people with dementia in the world will grow from 36 million to 115 million. Growth will be greatest in low / middle income countries. Dementia affects more women than men. After age 65, the chances of developing dementia doubles every five years. And after 80 years, virtually every fourth person on the planet suffers from this disease (think about these numbers!) It has also been proven that social factors, such as lifestyle, mental stress, emotional state, influence the development of dementia (the relationship between depression and development has been proven dementia). Also, decreased brain activity may be associated with circulatory problems in the brain. When the vessels are damaged, the nerve cells do not receive the oxygen and nutrients necessary for their normal functioning. Also, decreased brain activity may be associated with circulatory problems in the brain. When the vessels are damaged, the nerve cells do not receive the oxygen and nutrients necessary for their normal functioning. Also, decreased brain activity may be associated with circulatory problems in the brain. When the vessels are damaged, the nerve cells do not receive the oxygen and nutrients necessary for their normal functioning.
The most insidious thing is that for the first 15-20 years the process goes unnoticed for the patient himself and those around him. The brain ceases to cope with the usual functions only when the number of nerve cells and connections between them decreases critically.
At the table of a neurologist sits quite a cheerful elderly man, communicates with pleasure, there are no special complaints, except that close ones are alarmed by frequent mood swings and a strange forgetfulness - well … can be attributed to age. The doctor gives the patient simple tasks - to copy the figure drawn on the card, repeat the sequence of movements, reproduce a series of words - nothing complicated, like tests that check children's readiness for school. Behind the apparent simplicity - years of research. These are the so-called neuropsychological tests. Not every neurologist knows how to conduct them and, more importantly, interpret them. The way the patient copes with the tests makes it possible to judge the state of his brain, or rather, the cognitive functions of the brain: the ability to concentrate, memory, purposeful actions, conscious perception or recognition,speech. These studies will tell us a lot about the brain long before the secret is revealed. But the problem is that in our country it is considered a shame to admit or even hypothetically admit possible “head problems” both in ourselves and in a loved one. As a result, we are missing out on valuable time, delaying the moment of the first visit to a specialist.
Currently, the main and only treatment for neurodegenerative diseases is medication. There are medications that can significantly improve the quality of life of a patient with dementia, restore his ability to be aware of his actions, to lead a normal life. Here again the problem of accepting one's own diagnosis or the diagnosis of a loved one arises. For many, admitting brain dysfunction means defeat, embarrassment, and inconvenience. Many people avoid talking to friends about the fact that a parent has Alzheimer's. It seems that as long as we hold on to ourselves, without pills, as long as we serve ourselves - everything is fine … there is hope, the status quo. It is much more effective to be honest with the disease, to accept it, to know it in person - this is the only way to improve the quality of life and prolong the joy of communicating with loved ones. If you do not pay attention to the alarming symptoms, then for several years from an active and adequate person, you can come to a state of complete helplessness. And then it will already be impossible to do something.
Is it possible to prevent the development of dementia? Now they write a lot about how to prolong the youth of the brain. There is a lot of research on the impact of education and active mental work on our old age. Scientists unanimously advise learning foreign languages, solving crosswords, playing chess, as well as getting a second, third or tenth higher education - this seems to be a panacea for the terrible word "dementia", which in the depths of our souls fears each of us. In fact, unfortunately, there is no magic pill for old age, and a decrease in intellectual functions and impaired attention and memory are direct consequences of neurodegenerative processes in the brain, the speed of which we are unable to influence. So what about mental exercise? Yes, they are necessary and useful, they create that very safety margin,compensatory capabilities and reserves, which will allow delaying obvious manifestations of cognitive impairment, even in the presence of a disease. It has been scientifically proven that people with low intelligence and a small circle of interests slide into the abyss of helplessness much earlier. People of science, reading, teaching, and studying retain their clarity of mind for much longer, but even for them there comes a point when compensatory opportunities begin to be lacking. That is why it seems that such people rent out immediately, literally in a matter of months. In fact, their struggle with the aging of the brain could be conducted "underground" for many years. People of science, reading, teaching, and studying retain their clarity of mind for much longer, but even for them there comes a point when compensatory opportunities begin to be lacking. That is why it seems that such people rent out immediately, literally in a matter of months. In fact, their struggle with the aging of the brain could be conducted "underground" for many years. People of science, reading, teaching, and studying retain their clarity of mind for much longer, but even for them there comes a point when compensatory opportunities begin to be lacking. That is why it seems that such people rent out immediately, literally in a matter of months. In fact, their struggle with the aging of the brain could be conducted "underground" for many years.
The second point that we are able to influence is the prevention of vascular diseases of the brain. And this is control over the level of cholesterol in the blood, a healthy diet, the absence of bad habits and constant physical activity.
The third is early diagnosis. Here we are not talking about the prevention of the disease itself, but about maintaining a high quality of life due to the timely start of therapy.
So what should alert us?Let's make a reservation right away that we are talking about people over 60 years old. Any such complaints in young people require urgent medical attention, because they can serve as symptoms of a tumor process in the brain or a mental disorder. In older people, first of all, we observe emotions: anxiety, suspicion, alertness, depressive states - all these are clear signs of neurodegenerative diseases. It makes sense to look for a neurologist, although, it would seem, on the face of just a violation of the emotional state. Absent-mindedness, slight dizziness, a strange shuffling gait, difficulty in remembering information may appear. The sooner a medication is prescribed, the more likely you are to delay the onset of symptoms. Another problem is that people with cognitive impairments may simply forget to take their medications on time. If this is your loved one, it is clear that both he and you want to maintain the illusion of independence for as long as possible. As practice shows, the most prosperous are those patients who are not left to themselves (yes, of course, they are able to walk to a store or clinic and perform these stereotypical programs every day, but their brain, meanwhile, goes into hibernation). It is better to convince a loved one to live with you as early as possible, to find an opportunity to reunite a family, to consider options for commercial boarding houses according to Western models, which have begun to appear in Russia, to find a companion-nurse … anyone. The problem is that it is difficult to explain the need for all this to a still quite active person. And, nevertheless, this is the primary task. In large families, where several generations have lived under one roof, aging is not only more pleasant, but also safer. And in our case, when it comes to dementia, medication, support for relatives and a safe environment come first.
So, to summarize what each of us needs to know about brain aging and dementia:
- The main causes of dementia are Alzheimer's disease and cerebrovascular disorders.
- For the first 15-20 years, the disease can proceed without visible symptoms.
- The age at which you can notice the first signs of brain dysfunction is 65-70 years, and after 80 years, every fourth person will suffer from them.
- It is impossible to prevent the development of brain disorders, but it is possible to significantly delay their manifestations and maintain a high quality of life. First of all, due to active mental work and intellectual load throughout life. And also thanks to physical activity and the prevention of the development of cardiovascular diseases.
- A neurologist-neuropsychologist will help to carry out an early diagnosis of brain disorders. Neuropsychological research is the most reliable source of information about the state of mental functions.
- Seeing a neurologist is not a shame. It is a shame to bring yourself or your loved ones to a state of helplessness, ignoring alarming symptoms for a long time.
- A person with dementia should not live alone, even with outward well-being.
- Scientists are constantly working to develop new effective drugs for the treatment of dementia. These drugs can significantly slow down the course of the disease and preserve the patient's quality of life for a long time.
If your family has relatives suffering from memory impairments, do not hesitate to see a specialist.
We also recommend the materials and forum of the site www.memini.ru - where you can find support and communication from families caring for loved ones with dementia.
Photo: Getty Images
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