Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia. Dementia is a broader term for conditions caused by brain injuries or diseases that negatively affect memory, thinking, and behavior. These changes interfere with daily living.

 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease.

 

 

  • WHAT CAUSES ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

 

Experts haven’t determined a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but they have identified certain risk factors, including:

 

~ Age: Most people who develop Alzheimer’s disease are 65 years of age or older.

~ Family history: If you have an immediate family member who has developed the condition, you’re more likely to get it.

~Genetics: Certain genes have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s disease. It simply raises your risk level.

 

  • FACTS AND SYMPTOMS

 

Although many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, some aren’t sure exactly what it is. Here are some facts about this condition:

 

~ Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic ongoing condition.

~ Its symptoms come on gradually and the effects on the brain are degenerative, meaning they cause a slow decline.

~ There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s but treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve quality of life.

~ Anyone can get Alzheimer’s disease but certain people are at higher risk for it. This includes people over age 65 and those with a family history of the condition.

Everyone has episodes of forgetfulness from time to time. But people with Alzheimer’s disease display certain ongoing behaviors and symptoms that worsen over time. These can include:

 

~ Memory loss affecting daily activities, such as an ability to keep appointments

~ Trouble with familiar tasks, such as using a microwave

~ Difficulties with problem-solving

~ Troubles with speech or writing

~ Becoming disoriented about times or places

~ Decreased judgment

~ Decreased personal hygiene

~ Mood and personality changes

~ Withdrawal from friends, family, and community

 

Symptoms change according to the stage of the disease.

 

  • EFFECTS AND STAGES

 

Alzheimer’s typically affects people ages 65 years and older. However, it can occur in people as early as their 40s or 50s. This is called early onset, or younger onset, Alzheimer’s. This type of Alzheimer’s affects about 5 percent of all people with the condition.

 

Symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s can include mild memory loss and trouble concentrating or finishing everyday tasks. It can be hard to find the right words, and you may lose track of time. Mild vision problems, such as trouble telling distances, can also occur.

 

Alzheimer’s is broken down into seven stages:

 

~ Stage 1. There are no symptoms at this stage but there might be an early diagnosis based on family history.

~ Stage 2. The earliest symptoms appear, such as forgetfulness.

~ Stage 3. Mild physical and mental impairments appear, such as reduced memory and concentration. These may only be noticeable by someone very close to the person.

~ Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at this stage, but it’s still considered mild. Memory loss and the inability to perform everyday tasks is evident.

~ Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms require help from loved ones or caregivers.

~ Stage 6. At this stage, a person with Alzheimer’s may need help with basic tasks, such as eating and putting on clothes.

~ Stage 7. This is the most severe and final stage of Alzheimer’s. There may be a loss of speech and facial expressions.

 

  • TREATMENT AND PREVENTION

 

There’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor can recommend medications and other treatments to help ease your symptoms and delay the progression of the disease for as long as possible.

 

For early to moderate Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe medications such as donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). This is a type of neurotransmitter that can help aid your memory.

 

To treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or memantine (Namenda). Memantine can help block the effects of excess glutamate.

 

Just as there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are no foolproof preventive measures. However, researchers are focusing on overall healthy lifestyle habits as ways of preventing cognitive decline.

 

The following measures may help:

~ Quit smoking.

~ Exercise regularly.

~ Try cognitive training exercises.

~ Eat a plant-based diet.

~ Consume more antioxidants.

~ Maintain an active social life.

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Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease in which there are many unknowns. What is known is that the condition worsens over time, but treatment can help delay symptoms and improve your quality of life.

 

If you think you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s, your first step is to talk with your doctor. They can help make a diagnosis, discuss what you can expect, and help connect you with services and support.

 

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