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I read that a neurologist has special tests that can determine if uncharacteristic behavior is due to dementia or some other condition. My husband's neurologist diagnosed my husband with Alzheimer’s disease; however, he did not give him any tests. Are there tests that are routinely given as part of an Alzheimer’s disease evaluation? [ 08/30/13 ]

Physicians can correctly diagnose Alzheimer's disease (AD) about 90 percent of the time based on mental and behavioral symptoms, a physical examination, neuropsychological tests, and laboratory tests. It is possible that your husband's symptoms were so pronounced (to the trained eye) that the neurologist felt confident in declaring an AD diagnosis without further testing. To learn more about the tests that are routinely performed as part of an Alzheimer's disease evaluation, please read the section titled “What are the diagnostic tests used in Alzheimer's disease?” under Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Is there a correlation between aluminum and Alzheimer's? Does coffee drinking increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease? [ 08/30/13 ]

There is some evidence to causally link aluminum to Alzheimer's disease, however, further studies need to be done to definitely establish that high levels of dietary aluminum lead to Alzheimer's disease. You can read more about the connection between aluminum and AD in the frequently asked questions (FAQs) section of our website.

As far as coffee goes, recent studies indicate that there may be a beneficial effect to consuming caffeine. For example, in one study it was found that the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and dementia was lower in people who consume on average one cup of coffee per day compared to those who do not regularly drink coffee. Another study investigated the effects of caffeine in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (Arendash et al. Neuroscience. 2006; 142(4): 941-952). Researchers found that giving the mice 1.5 mg of caffeine per day in their drinking water (which is the human equivalent of about five cups of coffee per day) caused the mice to perform significantly better on several behavioral and cognitive tests than their non-caffeine consuming counterparts. Additionally, the investigators found that long-term administration of caffeine to these transgenic mice resulted in lower brain levels of amyloid beta protein, which is the protein responsible for much of the pathology (e.g., amyloid plaques) characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. However, because of the negative side effects associated with the overuse of caffeine (heart palpitations, anxiety, nervousness, headaches, peptic ulcers, etc.) it generally not advised that anyone should start drastically increasing their coffee intake.

My father and several aunts had Alzheimer's disease and it concerns me greatly. I understand that some studies are showing the presence of metals in the brain and I've heard we should not be cooking with cast iron. Is that true? If so, what is the best material for cookware? [ 06/19/13 ]

Because the ultimate cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet certain, the search for modifiable lifestyle risk factors is very compelling.  There is research exploring the risk-reducing value of addressing medical disorders such as diabetes, paying attention to nutrition, engaging in appropriate levels of physical activity, and maintaining cognitive stimulation and social connections.  The relevance of various environmental exposures has also been explored, and the possible role of cookware in increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s has been debated for decades. Cookware made of cast iron, stainless steel, or aluminum has the potential for exposing users to trace amounts of metals. Concerns have also been raised about zinc and copper.  A definitive link between exposure to metals and Alzheimer’s has not been established, though concerns about the toxicity of these metals, most frequently aluminum, have not been entirely laid to rest. Enameled cast iron or stainless steel has been recommended as most safe, but the food that you eat is probably a much more important risk factor than the cookware you use to prepare it.

My wife, who is 59 years old, suffers from severe and rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s disease. From the onset, her eyesight has been compromised. She sees, but can no longer watch the television and walks with great difficulty. Our doctor indicates nothing is wrong with her eyes, but there does appear to be a problem somewhere between her eyes and her brain. I would appreciate any perspective that you have on Alzheimer’s disease and loss of vision. [ 06/19/13 ]

The process of vision places demands not only upon the eyes but also on the brain. The eyes are the sensory organs that take in light and convert sensory input into the nerve impulses that are transmitted to visual centers in the brain. In Alzheimer’s disease, and particularly in the posterior cortical variant of this brain disorder, visual function can be greatly disturbed. Even though nothing is wrong with the eyes themselves, the brain’s inability to understand the signals it is receiving can produce symptoms such as you have described.

My partner of 20 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight years ago. Around 21 years ago, he was also diagnosed with Lewy Body disease. He weighed 212 pounds when first diagnosed, but now he weighs 129 pounds, is totally bed-ridden, and speaks very little. He eats well most of the time and sleeps as soon as he has eaten. Is this normal? He is still taking Namenda, twice daily, one Zoloft 100mg daily, 1/2 of a 10 milligram Norvasc daily, and one K DURx daily. Does the combination of these drugs cause sleepiness? [ 06/20/13 ]

Your partner has survived for an astounding number of years despite serious illnesses. I am not sure how his clinicians have distinguished between his Alzheimer’s disease and his Lewy Body disease, but both of these can interfere in so many ways with cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical functioning. As these diseases progress, an individual may require more hours of sleep each day, and sleep may be more fragmented. It would not be unusual to sleep after eating. The medications he is taking are not typically associated with increased sleepiness, but individuals can react idiosyncratically to medications so it is not impossible that his Namenda, Zoloft, or Norvasc might increase his sleepiness. Progression of his disease(s), however, is a more probable explanation.

My mother-in-law has dementia, which was diagnosed about two years ago. She takes Aricept, two Advil PM at bedtime, and melatonin to help her sleep through the night. It doesn't work. She still forgets what she said or asked, and forgets if family members have passed on or not. As her primary caregiver, I work full time while she goes to adult daycare, which picks her up each morning. She wakes up several times at night, gets dressed and waits by the front window watching for the bus at all hours. I've placed brightly colored sticky notes throughout the house, on windows, mirrors, and clocks, saying "Mary: The bus comes at 8 am. What time is it now?" I've placed the notes on the clocks and placed clocks everywhere in the house. She takes the notes down, but still waits by the front window watching for them in the dead of night. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep her from waking up and staying up all night waiting for the bus? We've taken her off any caffeinated drinks, but that [ 06/20/13 ]

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have profound effects on sleep. Alzheimer’s, in particular, is known to interfere with the continuity of sleep, so many affected people wake intermittently during the night. You’re right to eliminate caffeine and other stimulants from her diet. Prepare a restful sleeping area for her, too, and avoid excessive emotional stimulation before bedtime. Controlled release melatonin helps some Alzheimer’s patients remain asleep longer. Other medications are sometimes used, but please consult your mother-in-laws clinicians about this because they will balance the potential benefits of increased sleep with the risks that these medications bring, which include increased confusion and fall risk.

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease around seven years ago. She is currently living in a nursing home and I noticed lately she has been sleeping more than usual. Last night, while visiting with her, I tried to wake her and she wouldn't wake up. Even the nurse shook her and took her vitals. She was fine, but had a slight fever. I also noticed that her breathing was more rapid than usual. Does this mean she is shutting down? Her medications have been reduced and she still sleeping as if she is in a coma. [ 06/20/13 ]

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it is common for affected individuals to require more sleep. Fever and rapid breathing, however, may indicate the presence of an infection. The urinary tract, the lungs, or the skin are common sites of infection in people with advanced Alzheimer’s, and the clinicians caring for your mother may wish to assess for the presence of an infection affecting her temperature and breathing.

I was 60 years old in March of 2013. I have numerous osteoarthritic joints and suffer greatly with movement. An MRI has found brain atrophy and I do have short-term memory loss; however, I am still quite functional. I do worry about what lies ahead. The doctor said that I do not have Alzheimer’s, but he did put me on Aricept and phosphatidylcholine powder. Will this help to prevent the disease? Am I at high risk to develop the disease in the future? If I do not have the disease, then why take the medications? [ 05/22/13 ]

First, it’s important to clarify that neither donepezil (Aricept) nor any other currently available medication has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, donepezil is not indicated for the treatment of cognitive impairment that falls below the level of dementia. It’s not clear from the limited information that I have as to why you were prescribed phosphatidylcholine and donepezil, though your doctor may have a good reason, and it would be good for you to discuss this further with him or her.  The combination of brain atrophy on MRI and short-term memory loss is indeed worrisome, so if your doctor does not have specialized experience in treating memory disorders, this would be a good time for you to seek evaluation from someone expert in this area.

My mother has been on and off Namenda at least twice during the last year. She has been off the medication for about two months most recently. During this time, she has become more and more anxious and combative. These symptoms seem to go away when she is put back on the medication. Will Namenda eventually lose its effectiveness? [ 05/22/13 ]

Memantine (Namenda) is indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to benefit cognitive and behavioral symptoms even at a late stage of the illness. Some evidence supports using this drug as a useful treatment for agitation such as you describe. There may come a time when it loses effectiveness, or when the progression of cognitive and behavioral symptoms of dementia alter your mother’s behavior despite whatever benefit memantine continues to provide. Fortunately, there are other behavioral and medication approaches to treating these symptoms.

Will knee replacement surgery using an epidural make my dad's early-onset Alzheimer's disease worse? [ 05/22/13 ]

Although there has been controversy about the possibility that general anesthesia might worsen cognitive functioning in a person with Alzheimer’s disease, there is no evidence of epidural anesthesia producing such an effect

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Although we take efforts to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the information on our website reflects the most up-to-date research. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. The BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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