Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are neurological diseases that result from damage and death of brain cells. They are also irreversible conditions with some common symptoms whereby both conditions involve dementia, hallucinations, delusions, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. Despite their similarities, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's affect the brain differently. This article will look at both conditions, symptoms, symptoms, risk factors, and ways to lower these risks.
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is among the leading causes of death among the elderly in the United States and other parts of the world. The condition involves an irreversible degeneration of brain cells. It affects the functionality of the individual and eventually death from brain failure. Moreover, the disease interferes with the individual's memory, personality, and cognition ability. The cause of the disease is still unknown. However, some risk factors are associated with the illness, including diabetes, traumatic brain injury, smoking, diet, and other environmental factors. The disease progresses over time as beta-amyloid plaque accumulates between neurons or nerve cells and neurofibrillary tangles.
The condition lowers the levels of vitamins in the brain resulting in memory loss, cognitive challenges, confusion, difficulties in communication, and self-care. Due to the state of the victims with the illness, families have hard time caregiving. Studies are still ongoing to establish the causes and possible cures. The cases are still rising, with 5M Americans currently living with the condition. If no treatment is found, the numbers are expected to triple in the next three decades.
What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's disease, termed as "shaking palsy" by Dr. Parkinson, is a condition that occurs when dopamine-producing nerve cells within the brain starts to malfunction and die. Dopamine is a chemical substance that is involved in the communication between nerve cells. The effects of this are more physical problems than cognitive, and they develop in five stages over a long duration.
The individual shows symptoms of tremor at rest, muscle rigidity, and slow movements(bradykinesia). The individual may also exhibit other signs such as difficulty swallowing, shuffling gait, cramped handwriting, trouble getting out of a chair, quiet speech, and expressionless face. In most cases, the cause of the illness is unknown. However, it is related to poisoning from carbon monoxide, manganese, and some pesticides in other cases. Other causes of Parkinson's disease include complex PD-like neurological disorders, head trauma, and reversible toxic medication effects.
Despite being incurable, with early diagnosis and treatment, patients live productively for many years.
Both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases lead to a decline in cognitive abilities, also called dementia. However, the mental symptoms are less pronounced in persons with Parkinson's disease, and only half of these patients show cognitive decline.
Parkinson's affects a brain area called the subcortical, while in Alzheimer's, the cortical part of the brain is affected. This results in the difference in the patients' symptoms. Persons with Parkinson's experience slow thinking alongside difficulty in physical activity. Also, learning is possible for persons with Parkinson's, which is not the case with Alzheimer's.
Here are some common behavioral symptoms for persons with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases:
Depression: Both cases suffer from depression. However, depression for persons with Parkinson's is more pronounced and also responsive to treatment.
Anxiety: it is also common for patients with both illnesses to suffer from anxiety. The anxiety for both cases is also manageable with medication. However, these medications are also likely to cause side effects.
Psychotic Symptoms: Persons with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's show psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. The cause of this behavior could be delirium resulting from other conditions, medications or infections.
Sleep Disturbances: both illnesses result in sleep problems. Alzheimer's disease causes patients to have interrupted sleep patterns. This is different from Parkinson's, whereby the person has a behavior disorder called rapid eye movement (REM). The behavior is hard to manage since medications can also lead to problems with alertness and memory.
How Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Affect the Body and Brain Differently
Studies show that Parkinson's disease leads to impairment in physical ability and motor skills. The condition occurs when certain neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin, are damaged. The same affects the person's memory and thought process, which becomes more pronounced at the late stages of the disease.
As for Alzheimer's, certain proteins: tangles (tau) and plaques (beta-amyloid), accumulate in the brain cells causing damage and killing the cells. This form of dementia affects memory, thinking, judgment, comprehension, learning capacity, orientation, and language skills. In conclusion, comparing the two conditions, Alzheimer's progresses faster and affects cognitive ability more than motor skills. Important to note also is that not everyone with Parkinson's will develop dementia.
Ways to Decrease the Risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
There is no cure for either of the illnesses. However, they are managed with medication, with the management of Parkison's disease being more effective. Nonetheless, research has found some practical ways of reducing the risk through lifestyle.
1. Healthy diet; taking healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, olive oil, fish, and poultry help in maintaining brain health. It also prevents cardiovascular diseases and diabetes that cause brain problems.
2. Physical activity; taking regular exercise helps in improving mental wellbeing and physical health. It also helps maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. To keep you body healthy, you should at least involve yourself in 30-minute aerobic exercise four days a week.
4. Controlling stress and hypertension; stress causes hypertension which is a risk factor for these conditions. You should learn ways to manage stress and strictly follow the doctor's prescriptions if you have hypertension.
5. Social interaction; people with healthy relationships with others are less likely to suffer from mental health.
6. Music therapy; listening to music and dancing can help you relax while providing the necessary physical exercise.
7. Mental stimulation; different mental stimulation activities can help exercise the brain, keeping it active. You can try taking up some hobbies such as reading and playing games.
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