What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is an increasing form of dementia. Dementia is a larger term for conditions caused by brain damage or illnesses that transmit memory, thought, and other mental functions. These changes interfere in everyday life.
As per the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent cases of dementia. Most people with Alzheimer’s have been diagnosed after the age of 65. If it is diagnosed before then, it is commonly called early Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease does not have a permanent cure, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease.
While many people are aware of Alzheimer’s disease, some are not sure what it is. Here are a couple of facts on this condition:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic health issue.
- Its symptoms develop gradually and the effects on the brain are degenerative, which means they cause a slow decline.
- There is no remedy for Alzheimer’s disease, but treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and can affect quality of life.
- Anyone can suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, but some people are more at risk than others. This includes persons over the age of 65 and persons with a family history of this condition.
- Alzheimer’s disease is not the same. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia.
- There is no single result for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Some people live longer with mild cognitive injuries, while others have more rapid symptoms and progression of the disease.
Every person has a different story to Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s
In some cases, the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are used interchangeably. But both conditions are different. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia.
Dementia is a larger term for conditions with symptoms related to memory loss such as forgetfulness and confusion. Dementia includes more specific conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and others, which may cause these symptoms.
The causes, symptoms and treatments may be different for any of these diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease causes and risk factors
The experts did not identify a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but identified some risk factors, including:
- Age. Most people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are over the age of 65.
- Family history. If you have a recent relative that has developed the condition, you are more likely to get it.
- Genetics. A number of genes have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Having one or many of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop Alzheimer’s disease, but it does increase your risk level.
For more information on your personal risk of developing the disease, see your doctor.
Alzheimer’s and genetics
Although there is no identifiable cause for Alzheimer’s disease, genetics can play an important role. There is one gene in particular that scientists are interested in. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene associated with developing Alzheimer’s symptoms in older adults.
Blood tests may determine whether you have the gene, which increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to note that even if someone has that gene, they may not get Alzheimer’s.
The opposite is also true: Somebody can always get Alzheimer’s even if they don’t have the gene. You can’t tell for sure if someone is going to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Other genes may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and the early start of the disease.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Everyone has episodes of forgetfulness from time to time. However, people with Alzheimer’s disease have certain behaviors and symptoms that worsen over time. Examples include the following:
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, which means that symptoms get worse slowly with time. Alzheimer’s disease consists of 7 steps:
- Stage 1. There are no symptoms at this stage, but it may be diagnosed earlier depending on family history.
- Stage 2. The first signs appear, like forgetfulness.
- Stage 3. Slight physical and mental damage occurs, like a decrease in memory and concentration. These can only be noticed by a person closely related to the person.
- Stage 4. Alzheimer’s disease is often diagnosed at this point, but it is always considered benign. Memory loss and inability to complete daily tasks are evident.
- Stage 5. Moderate to serious symptoms need the help of loved ones or families.
- Stage 6. At this stage, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may need help with basic tasks like eating or wearing clothing.
- Stage 7. It is the most critical and final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. It can result in loss of speech (aphasia) and facial expressions.
Early onset Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease generally affects persons 65 years of age and older. But that can happen in people who are 40 or 50 years old. This is referred to as an early onset, or earlier onset, Alzheimer’s disease. That type of Alzheimer affects approximately 5 percent of all persons with a condition.
Symptoms of early onset of Alzheimer’s disease may include mild memory loss and trouble while concentrating or completing daily tasks. It can be hard to figure out the right words, and you can lose track of time. Slight vision issues, such as difficulty in determining distances, may also occur.
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease
The only definitive way to diagnose a person with Alzheimer’s disease is to examine his or her brain tissue after death. But your physician may use other tests and tests to evaluate your mental capabilities, diagnose dementia and eliminate other conditions.
From there, your doctor will probably do a number of tests to see if you have Alzheimer’s disease.
There is not a definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor will probably recommend more than one test to determine your diagnosis. This may include mental, physical, neurological or imaging tests.
Your doctor can start by testing your mental condition. It can help them assess your short-term memory, long-term memory, and orientation based on location and time.
Then they will likely do a physical examination. For example, they can check your blood pressure, look at your heart rate, and check your temperature. In some cases, they may take urine or blood samples to be analyzed in a laboratory.
Your physician may also conduct a neurological examination to rule out other possible diagnoses, such as an acute medical condition, such as infection or stroke. In the course of this test, they will check your reflexes, muscle tone and speech.
Your physician can also conduct brain imaging studies. This research, which will provide images of your brain, may include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs may provide key markers, such as inflammation, bleeding and structural issues.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans take X-ray images that may help your doctor find abnormal features in your brain.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET images can help your health care provider detect plaque deposits. Plaque is the protein substance associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Other tests your healthcare team may prescribe include blood tests to verify genes that may indicate that you are at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
There is no accurate treatment available for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor may recommend medications and other treatments to help relieve your symptoms and delay the disease’s progression for a longer period.
Your doctor may recommend other medicines for Alzheimer’s disease, such as donepézil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). These medications may help maintain high levels of acetylcholine in the brain. This type of neurotransmitter may help to boost your memory.
A doctor can prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or mémantine (Namenda) for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine may prevent the effects of excess glutamate. Glutamate is a chemical in the brain that is released in greater quantities into Alzheimer’s disease, and damaging brain cells.
Your physician may also prescribe antidepressants, anxiety medications and antipsychotics to treat symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease. The following symptoms are present:
Other Alzheimer’s treatments
In addition to medicines, lifestyle changes can help you manage your health. For example, your physician may plan or provide strategies to help you or your family member:
- limit confusion
- avoid confrontation
- focus on tasks
- rest sufficiently daily.
- stay calm
Some people think that vitamin E may prevent the decline of mental abilities, but studies Identify the need for further research. You should speak to your doctor before taking vitamin E or any other supplement since it may interfere with some of the medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with lifestyle changes, there are many other options that you can ask your doctor.
In the same way that there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there is no full preventive action. But researchers are focusing on global healthy living habits to prevent cognitive decline.
These estimates may be helpful:
- Stop smoking.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try a cognitive workout.
- Eat a plant-based diet.
- You need more antioxidants.
- Keep social life active.
Make sure you see your doctor before making any significant changes to your lifestyle.
If you have an Alzheimer’s disease, you may want to consider becoming a caregiver. This is full-time work that is certainly not easy, but can be very rewarding.
Being a caregiver requires a lot of expertise. They include many patience, as well as creativity, endurance, and the ability to feel bliss in the role of helping someone you love to live the most comfortable life they can.
As a caregiver, you and your loved one need to take care of themselves. These role responsibilities may come with greater stress, poor diet and lack of exercise.
If you’re interested in taking on the role of caregiver, You may need the help of professional caregivers and relatives.
The statistics about Alzheimer’s disease are daunting.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in American adults. It is the fifth-largest cause of death among those 65 years of age and older.
- In a study 4.7 million Americans over the age of 65 were born with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. According to these researchers, by 2050, there will be 13.8 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s is a costly illness. As per the CDC, about $259 billion spent on care costs related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the U.S. in 2017.
Alzheimer’s is a complicated illness where there are a lot of things left unknown. We know that the disease worsens with time, but treatment may help delay symptoms and improve your quality of life.
If you think you or your family may know about Alzheimer’s, your first step is to speak with your doctor. They can help you diagnose, discuss symptoms and what to expect, and put you in touch with services and support. If you are interested, they may also provide you with information on clinical trial participation.