Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, categorized as a brain disease in which a person’s memory and cognitive (thinking) abilities worsen over time. Along with memory loss, people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will experience impaired communication, lose concentration levels, loss of judgment and visual problems. The condition is incurable and patients will not be able to communicate or carry out any regular activities effectively.
Women are at greater risk of developing this condition than men. Usually, the condition develops in older adults after 60 years of age but there is another condition termed as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which can occur between 30 to 60 years of age.
Causes and Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease
In people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, their brain develops high levels of tangles of fibrous material (tau tangles) and abnormal proteins (beta-amyloid plaques). With the increase of the beta-amyloid plaques and tangles, the nerve cells in the brain become damaged and stop working properly. And, the brain shrinks and loses function over time. Research proved that the disease can damage the brain before showing the symptoms.
But the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, but the condition is linked to the factors that can cause heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol and smoking. Other factors include age, family history of Alzheimer’s disease, unbalanced diet, fruit, not exercising, limited social activities and head injuries.
Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
Alzheimer’s disease starts by arresting the hippocampus, which is a key area of the brain for learning and memory, therefore, memory loss is the earliest symptoms and they cannot able to remember newly learned information. Eventually, the disease affects various parts of the brain leading to language problems, behavioral abnormalities, visual problems and profound debilitation.
Most Common Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Personality changes
- Agitation, anxiety, and depression
- Sleep difficulties
- Inabilities to speak, swallow, eat, or walk.
- Vision problems
- Impaired judgment
Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis and Treatment
Laboratory tests are carried out to rule out other causes of dementia, such as vascular dementia, which is caused due to strokes. In order to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, patients undergo several tests of memory, attention, language and math skills. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible condition and there is no cure or treatment to stop the progression of the disease; however there are few treatments to alleviate some of the symptoms.
Medications for Memory and Cognitive Function
Cholinesterase inhibitors help memory loss by increasing the level of acetylcholine, a natural chemical that helps in communication between nerve cells. Memantine improves memory and other cognitive abilities by controlling a chemical in the body termed as glutamate. And, high dose vitamin E acts as an oxidant that may protect brain cells from injury.
Treatment for Behavioral Symptoms
- Antidepressants to treat depressed moods
- Anxiolytics to treat anxiety
- Antipsychotic medications for hallucinations and agitation
- Comfort measures to manage pain, hunger, thirst, etc.
- Calm, reassuring environment
- Adequate rest
Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
There is no preventive measure for Alzheimer’s disease; however, a number of studies are being conducted to prevent the onset of the disease or halt its progression. Recent studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with many of the risk factors for heart disease. However, the risk of developing this condition will be lowered by avoiding smoking, controlling diabetes and high blood pressure and consuming a balanced diet.