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Alzheimer's DiseaseAlzheimer’s Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Stages and Treatments

Commonly asked questions about Alzheimer’s Disease:

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia and causes difficulties with memory, thinking and behaviors.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease are progressive, as it may destroy memory and critical analysis skills. Symptoms are strengthened through time as they develop sooner and worsen over time and are most likely to first appear in individuals in their mid-60s.

What is the Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease?

While there is no direct cause for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a prime suspect relating to clumps of plaques, beta amyloid, formed within the brain to destroy brain cells.

Alzheimer’s Disease damages and kills brain cells, resulting in fewer connections and less surviving cells than a healthier one.

What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is a result of memory loss or forgetting recently learned information. This includes the failed ability to reason critically, as well as having good judgement. Every individual with the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, can experience one or many of the following symptoms at a varying degree:

Memory loss

Not being able to recall recently learned information is one of the highest leading causes of memory loss correlating to Alzheimer’s Disease. However, having to rely on family members, notes, or tabs to remember things becomes more frequent in addition to forgetting important dates or events.

Challenges in problem solving

Concentration problems arise when a person takes a longer time to do things than they did before. Planning skills also weaken when attempting to keep track of bills or a step-by-step instruction manual.

Difficulty completing simple, everyday tasks

People with Alzheimer’s Disease oftentimes lose track and find trouble in completing everyday tasks. These actions can be as small as forgetting the rules to a favorite board game, or not being able to remember the route to a familiar location.

Confusion with time or place

Losing track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time are all symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. They are also prone to forgetting where they are and question how they got there.

Vision difficulties

Difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color and contrast.

Misplacing items and not finding them

Putting things in unusual places, losing objects and not being able to find them again and possibly accusing others of stealing.

Poor judgement

Changes in judgement or decision-making affect their behavior, as well as the fact that they often don’t clean or groom themselves as often.

Withdrawal from work or social life

Removal from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports. These individuals may also have trouble following up on their favorite team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby.

Changes in mood or personality

Changes, such as confusion, suspicion, depression, fear, or anxiety are common, followed by short-temperament at home, work, with friends, or in places out of their comfort zones.

What are the Risk Factors with Alzheimer’s Disease?

The complexity of Alzheimer’s Disease allows its symptoms to progress over many years, like diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. These include age, genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Some of these symptoms may vary from person to person, however research proves that changes in the brain occur years, or even decades, before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease appear.

Age

This is the most common risk factor in Alzheimer’s Disease as it doubles every five years after the age 65. The group with the highest risk of Alzheimer’s are those older than 85 and are the fastest growing age group, according to The U.S. Census Bureau, which estimates Americans of the age of 65 and above will grow from 13 percent of the population today to nearly 20 percent in 2030.

Genetics

With increasing research done on Alzheimer’s Disease, genes are widely recognized as playing an important role in its development.

Late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the most common type, is typically noticeable after the age of 65. These causes are not completely understood, however risk factor genes have been investigated.

Family History

Genetics do influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and it is easier to predict when there is a family history of early-onset disease. Research has shown that those who have a member of their close family with Alzheimer’s Disease are more likely to develop the disease. Risks increase if more than one family member has the illness.

How is Alzheimer’s Disease Treated?

The complexity of Alzheimer’s Disease makes it unlikely to have any drug or other intervention to treat it. Current approaches allow people to maintain a high mental function, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow or delay their risks.

Scientists are currently studying what effects do mood-changing symptoms have and how they could be treated with either a drug or non-drug session to manage them. Research demonstrates that treating behavioral symptoms make people with the disease more comfortable and provide comfort and facility to caregivers.

What are the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Systems determining the stages of Alzheimer’s Disease are arbitrary with regards to how the disease can be split up over the course of time. However, this is the most common system, developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University. The following system has been adopted and used by a number of health care providers, such as the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Stage 1: No Impairment

During this stage, Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as memory problems associated with it, have not been detected.

  • Stage 2: Very Mild Decline

Seniors may begin to lose things and notice minor memory problems, but can usually be linked to common memory issues with regards to age. He/she will still do well on memory tasks, and the disease is undetectable by a physician or loved one.

  • Stage 3: Mild Decline

Friends, family members, and physicians will have the ability to detect memory or cognitive problems associated with the senior. Performance on memory and cognitive tests are affected and situations like finding the right word during conversations, remembering names of new acquaintances, and planning and learning will become increasingly difficult. They may also experience loss of personal possessions.

  • Stage 4: Moderate Decline

Clear symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are easily detectable in Stage 4 as patients struggle with simple arithmetic, remembering details about their life or short-term happenings, and managing finance or pay bills.

  • Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline

During Stage 5, patients need more help with daily activities as they may experience significant confusion, inability to recall details about themselves, and have difficulty dressing or grooming themselves. However, patients still maintain some functionality as they can typically bathe and go to the bathroom independently. They still know about their family members and a few childhood stories.

  • Stage 6: Severe Decline

These patients need constant supervision and frequent professional care. They have confusion of their surroundings, major personality changes and new behaviors arise, an inability to recognize faces except for close friends and relatives, loss of bowel and bladder control, and frequently wander.

  • Stage 7: Very Severe Decline

Stage 7 is the final stage of Alzheimer’s Disease. Because this is a terminal illness, patients in Stage 7 are now nearing death and can’t respond to their environment or communicate efficiently. They are unaware of their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living.

How Do I Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Although prevention for Alzheimer’s Disease does not have direct answers on its prevention, there are several precautions one can take in order to lessen its risks, according to alz.org:

  • Mindful connection: High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol all play a role in increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Studies has shown that as many as 80 percent of individuals with this disease also have cardiovascular disease.
  • Regular exercise: Exercise may be beneficial to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. This is because of brain cell’s increasing blood and oxygen flow in the brain.
  • Healthy diet: Heart-healthy eating may also protect the brain as it serves to limit sugar intake. Saturated fats, and eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods aid the blood flow throughout the body.
  • Social connections and intellectual activity: Exercising mental capacities daily as we age may lower the risk of cognitive decline and the prevention of Alzheimer’s. These are known to stimulate the connections between the nerve cells in the brain
  • Head trauma: Protecting your head by wearing a seat belt or helmets prevent Alzheimer’s greatly as there is a strong link between the disease and serious head trauma.

What Drugs Are Used to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

The following drugs and medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, according to alz.org:

  • Donepezil
  • Galantamine
  • Memantine
  • Rivastigmine

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