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Quiz: What Do You Know About Alzheimer's Disease?

1. Alzheimer's disease is the same as dementia and is a natural part of the aging process.

True

False

2. How many people in the United States are thought to suffer from Alzheimer's disease?

a. Around a million

b. Around 5 million

c. Around 25 million

d. Around 40 million

3. Which of the following is the most important risk factor for developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease?

a. Advanced age

b. A family history of the disease

c. Drinking from aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots

d. Head injuries

4. Which of the following are thought to delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms?

a. Regular exercise

b. Having a heart-healthy diet

c. Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol

d. All of the above

5. Alzheimer's disease can last as long as:

a. 1-2 years

b. 3-20 years

c. 5-10 years

d. 20-30 years

6. A diagnosis of "possible Alzheimer's" means that:

a. The doctor believes there is a 50 to 60 percent chance that the patient has the disease.

b. The patient probably has Alzheimer's disease but there may also be another disorder causing dementia as well.

c. The patient probably has age-related dementia.

d. Doctors don't really know what the problem is.

7. There are medications that may improve the symptoms of mental decline in Alzheimer's.

True

False

8. People in the early stages of Alzheimer's can't learn new information.

True

False

Your Results

1. Alzheimer's disease is the same as dementia and is a natural part of the aging process.

The correct answer is: False

Severe memory loss or dementia of any kind (including Alzheimer's) is no longer considered a natural side effect of aging. The severe memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's, like agitation, anxiety and delusions, are in a different class than the occasional memory lapses we may encounter as we grow older. Though researchers haven't pinpointed the cause of Alzheimer's yet, they have identified physical changes in the brains of Alzheimer's patients that aren't found in the brains of those not suffering from the disease.

2. How many people in the United States are thought to suffer from Alzheimer's disease?

The correct answer is: b. Around 5 million

According to the National Institutes of Health, around 5.5 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's disease. That works out to about 10 percent of men and women over age 65.

3. Which of the following is the most important risk factor for developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease?

The correct answer is: a. Advanced age

After age 65, the number of people with the disease doubles every five years. A family history of the disease may increase a person's risk of getting it, but advanced age is by far the highest risk factor. Many studies have been done on whether drinking from aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots might play a role in whether a person gets Alzheimer's, and so far researchers don't see any connection. Some studies have found that Alzheimer's is more common among people who have suffered severe head injuries resulting in loss of consciousness, but more research is necessary to understand whether the injuries actually cause the disease.

4. Which of the following are thought to delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

More and more evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly into their later years are less likely to develop Alzheimer's: In one study, older women who were physically active during the six to eight years of follow-up were less likely to suffer from impaired memory and reasoning. In addition, several case-control studies suggest that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for the disease. What's more, one study released in suggested that walking at least 6 miles a week -- the equivalent of 72 city blocks -- will help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. In the first decade of a 20-year study of 426 older adults, the researchers also found that adults who already had Alzheimer's or mild cognitive impairment were able to preserve the brain's key memory and learning centers over at least a 10-year period by walking 5 miles a week.

And even a little exercise may yield tremendous gains. In a recent U.S. study involving more than 1,700 adults followed over a six-year period, adults over 65 who exercised for 15 minutes three times a week reduced their risk for dementia by one-third.

A healthy diet also appears to be a strong defense against Alzheimer's. A four-year study of 815 Chicago seniors published in the Archives of Neurology found that a diet high in artery-clogging saturated fat doubled the risk of the disease. (A diet high in trans fats was also linked to a strong increased risk.) At the same time, a diet high in unsaturated vegetable fats -- such as those found in vegetable oils -- lowered the risk.

In fact, the eating pattern known as the Mediterranean diet -- which is rich in fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats such as olive oil -- has been found to reduce Alzheimer's risk by 40 to 60 percent, according to a Johns Hopkins report. The spice turmeric has also been associated with a lowered risk of Alzheimer's.

Finally, it's a good idea to reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol. According to a report from the National Institute on Aging, high blood pressure and abnormal blood cholesterol may influence Alzheimer's for the worse. Among other things, it says, scientists have found that high blood cholesterol levels may increase the rate of plaque deposition in laboratory mice.

5. Alzheimer's disease can last as long as:

The correct answer is: b. 3-20 years

Alzheimer's advances at different rates in different people, and can last from as little as three to as many as 20 years. Researchers have defined seven stages of Alzheimer's based on symptom progression and the way the nerve cell degeneration manifests itself in the patient.

6. A diagnosis of "possible Alzheimer's" means that:

The correct answer is: b. The patient probably has Alzheimer's disease but there may also be another disorder causing dementia as well.

There are currently no blood tests or other lab tests to confirm an Alzheimer's diagnosis, so doctors can only make a diagnosis of "possible" or "probable" Alzheimer's disease. They do this by asking questions about a person's medical history and giving the person memory and problem-solving tests. They also do tests to rule out other diseases that could cause Alzheimer's-like symptoms. A diagnosis of "probable" Alzheimer's means that all other diseases that cause dementia-like symptoms have been ruled out and the most likely diagnosis is Alzheimer's. A diagnosis of "possible" Alzheimer's means that Alzheimer's is likely the main cause of the patient's condition, but that another disorder could also be affecting the progression of symptoms.

7. There are medications that may improve the symptoms of mental decline in Alzheimer's.

The correct answer is: True

A class of drugs known as cholinesterase inhibitors -- including Aricept (donepezil), Exelon (rivastigmine), and Razadyne (galantamine) -- can delay symptoms of mental decline for months or, in a few cases, years. Namenda (memantine), can help some patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's hold on to their ability to perform daily tasks such as bathing or dressing. It's often used in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor, but there is one drug Namzaric -- that combines donepezil with memantine for moderate to severe Alzheimer's symptoms.

8. People in the early stages of Alzheimer's can't learn new information.

The correct answer is: False

According to two recent studies supported by the National Institute on Aging, people who have early stage Alzheimer's disease have far more capacity to learn new things than previously thought. Researchers in Miami, Florida found that mildly impaired Alzheimer's patients who took three to four months of "cognitive rehabilitation" classes had an 170 percent improvement in their ability to recall faces and names, along with a 71 percent improvement in their skill at giving the proper change for a purchase. This report followed an earlier study from Washington University in St. Louis, which found that older people in the early stages of Alzheimer's retained working levels of "implicit memory" (when information from the past pops into mind automatically without the person trying to remember) similar to that in young and older adults who were free of Alzheimer's.

References

Memory. Johns Hopkins White Paper, 2011.

Alzheimer's Disease. National Institutes of Health.

About Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Association. 2010

The Stages of Alzheimer's Disease. 2010.

Fact Sheet: Cholinesterase Inhibitors. Alzheimer's Association.

Fact Sheet: Memantine (Namenda). Alzheimer's Association.

Johannsen P. Long-term cholinesterase inhibitor treatment of Alzheimer's disease. CNS Drugs. 2004;18(12):757-68.

Alzheimer's Disease Medications Fact Sheet. Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, National Institute on Aging.

Press release: Studies suggest people with early AD can still learn. National Institutes of Health. July 2, 2004.

Alzheimer's Association. What is Alzheimer's? 2010.

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