Monthly Archives: April 2013

Purple Ribbon Task Force and State of FL Alzheimer’s Plan

Purple Ribbon Task Force Survey:

Creating a Comprehensive State Plan

The Purple Ribbon Task Force was created by the Florida State Legislature and approved by the Governor to create acomprehensive state plan to address the growing public health impact of Alzheimer’s disease and identify ways to meet the needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers. 


The task force, of which the Alzheimer’s Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter is apart of, created five surveys. Each of the five surveys is tailored to the experiences of a specific group of individuals, including 1) people with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias; 2) family caregivers; 3) family and friends; 4) healthcare providers and paid caregivers; and 5) policy, legal, education and other professionals.


To take a survey or get more information, go to 
Purple Ribbon Task Force Surveys.   


For additional information about the surveys, please contact Dr. Darlene Heinrich at 850-414-2111 ( 

The surveys will be available online through May 3, 2013. 


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Diabetes puts you at higher risk for dental problems. High blood sugars can cause problems to your gums and teeth. See your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.


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5 Signs of Alzheimer’s That Sometimes Show up Before Memory Loss

Forgetfulness isn’t always the first sign of dementia.

By , senior editor
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outside, reflecting

Memory loss is the symptom everybody worried about Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia seems to focus on. After all, it’s distressing — and increasingly obvious. Yet there are other common symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia that can turn up even earlier, researchers say.

Sometimes, according to memory experts, even doctors miss early dementia signs because they’re focused on memory loss to the exclusion of other symptoms.

In fact, in 2011 Spanish researchers found that more than a third of adults who go on to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s (the kind that appears before age 65) have the following symptoms early in the disease, even before memory loss is apparent. These symptoms can also be the first to appear among adults who develop Alzheimer’s after age 65.

Of course, if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to have them checked out by a doctor, psychologist, or other expert in cognition and the brain.

Early sign of dementia #1: Personality change

A warm, friendly loved one may seem to morph into a bit of a grouch — at first occasionally, and then increasingly. A gregarious person still jokes and talks a lot but begins to say inappropriate things or make odd accusations. A mild-mannered loved one begins cursing. All of these are examples of the kinds of personality changes that can predate memory loss in someone with dementia. Often, it’s only later that friends and family look back and realize that behaviors they found off-putting or upsetting weren’t intentional but related to the Alzheimer’s.

Early sign of dementia #2: Problems with executive functioning

Trouble carrying out basic, familiar tasks can creep up slowly but surely. The person may, for example, have difficulty doing something that involves multiple steps, like following written directions or instructions. A longtime cook may avoid complicated recipes. A hobbyist may simplify the form of his or her craft.

Other hallmark trouble areas: making plans and not following through, whether for a vacation or an activity. Not tracking bills. Not being able to solve simple problems, such as mending a broken piece of machinery he or she could once fix easily.

Early sign of dementia #3: Vision problems

Problems with depth perception or visual-spatial coordination can precede memory problems. The person may have trouble driving or even walking well without tripping on stairs. It can be hard to judge distances or see contrasts between like colors, which can lead to accidents. In a more severe example of a perception problem, the person may not recognize himself or herself in a mirror or when passing his or her reflection in a building or window on the street.

Early sign of dementia #4: Language problems

Word retrieval and getting out the right words can become apparent before friends and family notice the more common communication problem of repeating stories or questions. For example the person having trouble may stop in the middle of a sentence, unable to think of the next word. (This can happen to anyone, but when it’s a sign of dementia, it happens with alarming frequency, and sometimes the person isn’t even aware of doing it.) Or the wrong word may come out — “mouth cleaner” for “toothbrush” or “picture stick” for “TV remote control.”

Early sign of dementia #5: Social withdrawal

Early in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, the person is often well aware that something is amiss, even if he or she isn’t exactly sure of the source of the problem. It can be frightening to feel that you’re not quite in control of your faculties all of the time. This can cause the person to use more and more energy to stay in self-command. That leaves less energy to interact with others. Sometimes the person isn’t even aware that he or she seems to be losing interest in friends and family, because he or she is concentrating so hard on just getting through the day.

Social withdrawal can also be caused by a desire to avoid embarrassment or by depression — which often develops alongside dementia.

6 Power-Napping Secrets

Sleep deprivation is a special risk for caregivers. Napping can help you recharge your brain and body. These napping tricks can help:

Time it right.
After lunch is a good nap time for most people because it meshes with your natural circadian rhythms. Some of your deepest sleep comes between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., and you’re naturally sleepy again 12 hours later.

Take a driveway nap.
Sounds crazy, but when you have time off for errands because someone else is with your loved one, don’t rush back into the house afterward. If you need some sleep, pull into the driveway and catch some shut-eye for ten minutes right there.

Try “co-napping.”
If your loved one naps during the day, resist the urge to get a million other things done — try to catnap yourself at the same time. If the person in your care isn’t a napper, try setting up a reclining chair in his or her room so that you can be together while, say, watching TV — but you can also nod off for a spell.

Use a timer.
Experienced power-nappers can rouse themselves after just 10 or 15 minutes, but you may need the help of an alarm. The ideal nap is less than 20 minutes long — sleep longer and you may awaken groggy and disoriented, and find that your nighttime sleep is affected. When the alarm goes off, resist the urge to drowse; get up right away.

Take a “caffeine nap.”
Drink a cup of caffeinated coffee, then take a 15-minute nap immediately after. It sounds backward, but research shows that this particular combination makes you feel more alert and recharged than if you just drank the coffee, or just napped for 15 to 30 minutes. Called a “caffeine nap,” it gives you the refreshing effects of sleep plus a jolt of caffeine, which kicks in just as you’re waking up.

Use sleep cues.
Some sleep experts advise against napping in your bed, because it signals you to fall into a longer, deeper sleep than you need for napping. But it’s still a good idea to use other sleep cues: a darkened room, quiet (turn off the TV if you can), and a blanket to lull your body to a cozy sleep temperature.

5 New Heart Tests That Could Save Your Life

Heart Tests

5 New Heart Tests That Could Save Your Life

By , senior editor
Last updated: April 01, 2013
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When someone close to us, or a beloved public figure, dies suddenly in their 50s (or even younger) from a heart attack, it suddenly raises our awareness of the deadly danger posed by undiagnosed heart disease. And indeed, statistics show that 50 percent of men and 64 percent of women who die suddenly from coronary artery disease (CAD) had normal cholesterol readings and no prior symptoms. But how do you know if you’re at risk, and how bad that risk really is? Here are five new heart tests that show impressive results in detecting heart disease early and predicting future risk of heart attack and stroke.

Coronary Artery Calcium Scan (CAC)

Calcium is one of the main components in the plaque that builds up inside coronary arteries, narrowing and stiffening them and obstructing blood flow to and through the heart. A CAC score of zero is considered ideal; a score over 400 indicates severe atherosclerosis. Although CAC scanning is still one of the lesser-known heart tests, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago determined that the CAC test was a “strong predictor” of heart attack and fatal heart disease. The researchers followed close to 7,000 people, testing them for CAC, then followed them for more than three years, correlating the data with the number of fatal or life-threatening coronary events. Those whose scores ranged from 100 to 300 were seven times more likely to die of a heart attack or other heart ailment than those with low CAC scores, and those with scores over 300 were even more at risk.

How it’s done: Scans for coronary artery calcium are done via computed tomography, otherwise known as a CT or CAT scan. Unfortunately, CAC scanning, like any other CT scan, isn’t without risk. Research by the National Cancer Institute and Columbia University found that the average range of radiation exposure from having such a screening test every five years would cause 42 additional cases of cancer among 100,000 men and 62 additional cases among 100,000 women. Some doctors therefore advise holding off on CAC scanning until other tests show elevated risk.

Who should get it: The American Heart Association (AHA) now recommends a CAC test for people over age 40 with risk factors for heart disease. Recent research also shows CAC tests are particularly useful as an incentive for treatment. Two Canadian studies published in 2012 found that having a higher-than-recommended CAC score doubled peoples’ likelihood of sticking to a statin regimen and motivated 40 percent of those studied to lose weight.

How it’s different: CAC scores are considered the strongest predictor of future coronary events in people who are otherwise asymptomatic, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). A study published in the August 2011 issue of The Lancet found that the CAC was a better predictor of heart disease than any other measure and can be used effectively to decide who should take statins and who’s less likely to benefit.

Cost: $300 to $500; sometimes covered by insurance if ordered by a doctor as indicated by heart disease symptoms or “medium risk” of heart disease based on an assessment of risk factors. Check with your doctor and insurer first.