All you need to know about Alzheimer’s Disease (and Dementia)
As we age, it’s normal for minor forgetfulness to set in. However, this memory loss can become so severe that it disrupts daily life – from losing track of days and time to having difficulty engaging in everyday activities like paying bills.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia that slowly causes impairment in memory and cognitive function. As of 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, of which most patients are over the age of 65. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the US.
In this post, we’re going to explore all you need to know about Alzheimer’s and how it relates to dementia.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often used interchangeably by laymen. However, they are two different things. Dementia is used to describe a broad range of symptoms that impacts memory, communication abilities, and the performance of routine activities. Several conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and more can result in Dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is simply a type of dementia. It is even the most common form of dementia, accounting for over 60% of dementia cases.
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease
Medical experts are yet to determine a single definitive cause of Alzheimer’s disease. However, several risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition.
- Age: As we age, we become more susceptible to brain deterioration. Little wonder, the majority of Alzheimer’s disease develops in people over the age of 65 years.
- Family history: Some families have a history of Alzheimer’s disease. Belonging to such a family can increase your risk of developing it.
- Genes: Some genes – like the dreaded APOE E4/E5 genetic profile – have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Common Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Being forgetful occurs from time to time in almost everyone. However, when such forgetfulness intensifies and symptoms persist, it can be indicative of Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some of the symptoms of the condition:
- Memory loss that makes it difficult to keep up with daily life, like keeping appointments.
- Having trouble performing familiar tasks, like using an oven.
- Impairment in speech or writing
- Losing track of time, date, and season.
- Withdrawal from loved ones.
- Decreased sense of judgment and personal hygiene.
- Personality changes.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
The most common system – as developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University – breaks the progression of Alzheimer’s disease into seven stages.
- Stage 1: No impairment
During this stage, there are no detectable memory problems or other symptoms of dementia.
- Stage 2: Very mild decline
Minor memory problems sets in, however, they are indistinguishable from normal memory-loss challenges associated with aging.
- Stage 3: Mild decline
Reduced memory and concentration sets in at this stage. You may have difficulty finding the right words in conversations, for instance. People close to you may begin to notice this memory decline.
- Stage 4: Moderate decline
Symptoms become apparent. Common problems include difficulty with simple arithmetic or inability to manage finances and pay bills.
- Stage 5: Moderately severe decline
People at this stage may need help with daily activities. Common problems that may arise include difficulty dressing appropriately, significant confusion, or forgetting their phone number.
- Stage 6: Severe decline
At this stage, people need constant supervision and professional care as confusion and unawareness of the environment becomes very significant. Loss of bladder and bowel control may arise.
- Stage 7: Very severe decline
This is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. At this stage, people lose the ability to communicate or respond to their environment. People at this stage are typically nearing death.
At the moment, there is no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease, except autopsy. However, doctors make use of several tests – which can include mental, physical, or neurological tests, as well as brain-imaging – to determine your diagnosis.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, certain treatments can help reduce the progression of the disease or ease symptoms.
Medications like rivastigmine (Exelon) and donepezil (Aricept) may help people with early to moderate Alzheimer’s. Memantine (Namenda), on the other hand, can be prescribed to people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.
Furthermore, Dr. Bredesen’s ReCODE Protocol is reported to stop or reverse cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
While there are no fool-proof preventive measures for Alzheimer’s, adopting certain lifestyles can help reduce your risk of developing the condition. Some of these measures include:
- Quit smoking
- Engage in regular cognitive training exercises
- Exercise daily
- Consume more antioxidants
- Adopt a plant-based diet
- Maintain a vibrant social life.
Contact us here today for more information. We understand this is a scary and touchy topic that can have unwarranted repercussions in and around family members. We are here to help in any way we can – do not hesitate to reach out.