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Early signs of Alzheimer’s and what you can do about it

The Alzheimer’s Society has a wealth of information about the disease and how it affects people and their caregivers.

Some early warning signs include poor judgment and decision making. However, that is not to say we all don’t make mistakes every once in a while.

Inability to manage a budget can also be a sign, although missing a payment every once in a while doesn’t mean a definitive diagnosis either! Losing track of the date or the season is a reason for concern, but forgetting what day of the week it is, and remembering later, is not an indicator that you have early warning signs for Alzheimer’s.

Difficulty having or following a conversation is a sign, but we all forget an occasional word here and there. Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them could be a precursor, but losing things from time to time is fairly common.

If the memory loss disrupts daily life, that is an early warning sign that should not be ignored. If normal activities — following a familiar recipe or doing monthly accounting — become difficult or impossible that also is a hint that Alzheimer’s could be imminent.

Even driving or finding one’s way to a familiar location can become a challenge in the early stages of the disease.

People in the early stages frequently have trouble understanding visual or spatial images and relationships.

For example, they may pass a mirror and think that someone else is in the room, or have trouble judging distances.

Often, those in the early stages begin to withdraw from social or work activities. This is because they experience trouble keeping up with their work project, favorite sports teams, hobbies or social activities.

People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s often experience changes in their personalities. They may become fearful, anxious, confused and suspicious, depressed and upset. They can become extremely upset in places outside of their comfort zone.

A new study published in the Journal of The American Medical Association has found that taking high dosages of Vitamin E appears to help people in all stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the researchers note that Vitamin E is far from a cure, it helps people with planning and functional activities, such as organizing.

The study showed that those people who took the Vitamin E therapy needed less help from their caregivers and were more independent. The recommended amount of Vitamin E given in the study was 2,000 IU. The recommended amount for most people is around 22.4 IU or 15 mg daily.

Individuals in the study were mostly male veterans, so it may be different for women, and the researchers advise that those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s should be cautious before adding massive amounts of Vitamin E to their daily supplement intake.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that combats free radical damage to cells by stabilizing cell membranes. It may be that it protects brain cells from the plaques of Alzheimer’s disease.

The men who participated in the study were also taking standard drugs to combat the disease, although researchers felt that patients who were not taking the cholinesterase inhibitor drugs also would benefit from the Vitamin E therapy.

Other things to do to reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease are to exercise daily, keep your mind engaged and your social life active.

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com

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