What is Alzheimer’s disease?

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

According to the Alzheimer’s Organization, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age sixty-five. If it’s identified before then, it’s usually referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

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

Alzheimer’s disease facts

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

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic proceeding condition.

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

  • There’s no complete 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 some people are at higher risk for it. This includes people over age sixty-five and those with a family history of the condition.

  • Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t a similar thing. Alzheimer’s disease is a category of dementia.

  • There’s no single expected conclusion for people with Alzheimer’s. Some people live a very long time with mild cognitive damage, while others experience a more rapid beginning of symptoms and quicker disease progression.

Each person’s expedition with Alzheimer’s disease is different. Find out more facts about how Alzheimer’s can affect people.

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s disease

The terms “Dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are sometimes used indistinguishably. However, these two situations aren’t the same. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia (memory loss).

Dementia is a comprehensive term for conditions with symptoms relating to memory loss such as forgetfulness and confusion. Dementia includes particular conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and others, which can cause these symptoms.

Symptoms, causes, cure, and treatments can be different for these diseases. Learn more about how dementia and Alzheimer’s disease differ from each other.

Alzheimer’s disease causes and risk factors

The specialist hasn’t determined a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but they have identified specific risk factors, including:

  • Age. Mostly, people who develop Alzheimer’s disease are sixty-five years of age or older.

  • Family history. If you have a family member who has developed the condition, you’re more believably to get it.

  • Genetics. Certain genes have been connected to Alzheimer’s disease.

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

To learn more about your personal risk of developing the situation, talk with your medical specialist. Learn about amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and other factors that may originate from Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease and genetics

While there’s no one recognizable cause of Alzheimer’s, genetics may play a vital role. One gene, in particular, is of attentiveness to researchers. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene that’s been linked to the beginning of Alzheimer’s symptoms in aged adults.

Blood tests can diagnose if you have this gene, which raises your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind that even if anyone has this gene, they may not get Alzheimer’s.

The opposite is also true: Anyone may still get Alzheimer’s even if they don’t have the gene. There’s no way to tell for sure whether someone will progress Alzheimer’s.

Other genes could also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and the early beginning of Alzheimer’s. Learn more about the relation between genes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

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

  • memory loss affecting daily business, such as an ability to keep appointments

  • difficulty with familiar tasks, such as using a microwave

  • complication with problem-solving

  • difficulty with speech or writing

  • becoming disoriented about times or location

  • decreased understanding

  • reduced personal hygiene

  • mood and personality alternations

  • taking away from friends, family, and community

Symptoms alter according to the stage of the disease. Find out about early signs of Alzheimer’s and how they progress into more severe symptoms.

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder, which means the signs will gradually worsen over time. Alzheimer’s is broken down into seven phases:

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

  • Stage 2. The earliest symptoms arise, such as forgetfulness.

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

  • Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is generally diagnosed at this stage, but it’s still considered mild. Memory loss and incapacity to perform everyday tasks is evident.

  • Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms need help from loved ones or caregivers.

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

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

As a person progresses through these stages of the disorder, they’ll need increasing support from a protector. Find out more about how the phases of Alzheimer’s progress and the support needs that are likely for each.

Early-onset of Alzheimer’s disease

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

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

Some people are at greater danger of developing this condition. Learn more about risk factors and other symptoms of the early beginning of Alzheimer’s.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease

The only authoritative way to diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease is to examine their brain tissue after death. But your doctor can use other examinations and tests to analyze your mental abilities, diagnose dementia, and find out other conditions.

They’ll likely start by taking a medical record. They may investigate your:
  • symptoms

  • family medical record

  • other ongoing or past health conditions

  • present or past medications

  • diet, alcohol intake, or another lifestyle manner
From there, your doctor will likely do various tests to help determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease tests

There are no definitive tests for Alzheimer’s disease. But, your medical doctor will likely do several tests to determine your diagnosis. These can be mental, physical, neurological, and Magnetic resonance imaging i.e. MRI tests.

Your medical specialist may start with a mental status test. This can support them to assess your short-term memory, long-term memory, and orientation to place and time. e.g., they may ask you:

  • what date it is

  • who the prime minister is

  • to remind and recall a shortlist of words

Thereafter, they’ll likely hold a physical exam. For example, they may examine your blood pressure, check your heart rate, and check your temperature. In some cases, they may take urine or blood samples for testing in a laboratory.

Your doctor may also conduct a neurological test to find out another possible diagnosis, such as an acute medical issue, infection or stroke. During this assessment, they will examine your reflexes, muscle tone, and speech.

Your doctor may also order brain-imaging research. These studies, which will create a sketch of your brain, can include:
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)MRIs can support pick up key markers, such as inflammation, bleeding, and structural problems.

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans take an X-ray sketch which can help your medical doctor look for abnormal characteristics in your brain.

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scan images can help your medical specialist to detect plaque build-up. Plaque is a protein mass related to Alzheimer’s signs.
Further tests your doctor may do include blood tests to examine for genes that may indicate you have an extreme risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Find out more about this test and other procedures to test for Alzheimer’s cause.

Alzheimer’s disease medications

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

For early to moderate Alzheimer’s, your doctor may recommend medications such as donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). These drugs can help retain high levels of acetylcholine in your brain. This is a kind of neurotransmitter that can help aid your memory.

To treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, your medical specialist may prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or memantine (Namenda). Memantine can help block the effects of surplus glutamate. Glutamate is a brain chemical that’s discharged in higher amounts in Alzheimer’s disease and damages brain cells.

Your doctor may also suggest antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, or antipsychotics to help cure symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease. These signs include:

  • depression

  • sleeplessness

  • aggressiveness

  • agitation

  • anxiety

Learn more about Alzheimer’s medications available nowadays, and those being developed.

Other Alzheimer’s disease treatments

In addition to recommended medicines, lifestyle changes may help you organize your condition. For example, your doctor might follow policies to help you or your loved one:

  • stay calm

  • limit confusion

  • avoid confrontation

  • get enough rest every day

  • focus on tasks

Some people assume that vitamin E can help inhibit a decline in mental abilities, but deep studies indicate that more research is required. Be sure to ask your medical doctor before taking vitamin E or any other supplements. It can interfere with some of the medicines or drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to lifestyle alternations, there are some alternative options you can ask your medical doctor about. Read more about alternative Alzheimer’s medications.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Just as there’s no known treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, there are no perfect preventive measures. That's why researchers are focusing on complete healthy lifestyle habits as ways of preventing cognitive decline.

The following practices may help in prevention:

  • Maintain an active social life

  • Exercise regularly

  • Try cognitive training exercises

  • Eat a plant-based diet

  • Consume more antioxidants

  • Quit smoking

Be sure to talk with your medical doctor before making any changes in your lifestyle. Read more about possible ways for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease care

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you may consider becoming a helper. This is a full-time job that’s generally not easy but can be very rewarding.

Being a caregiver takes much mastery. These involve patience perhaps above all, as well as creativity, stamina, and the ability to see the joy in the character of helping anyone you care about life the most comfortable lifestyle they can.

As a caregiver, it’s very important to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. With the duty of the role can come an increased risk of stress, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition.

If you take to assume the role of caregiver, you may need to enlist the help of expert caregivers as well as family members to support. Learn more about what it takes to be an Alzheimer’s patient caregiver.

Alzheimer’s disease statistics

The statistics surrounding Alzheimer’s disease are daunting.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s is the 6th most common disease of death among Americans adults. It ranks 5th among disease of death for people sixty-five years and older.

  • Research found that 4.7 million Americans over the age of sixty-five years had Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Those researchers predicted that by 2050, there will be 13.8 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suppose that over ninety percent of people with Alzheimer’s don’t see any symptoms until they’re over sixty-five years old.

  • Alzheimer’s is a fatal and expensive disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about $259 billion was spent on Alzheimer’s and dementia memory loss care costs in the United States in 2016.

The takeaway

Alzheimer’s is a complicated disorder in which there are many unknowns. What is known is that the position worsens over time, but treatment can help delay signs and upgrade your quality of life.

If you think you or a family member may have Alzheimer’s disease, your first step is to talk with your medical doctor. They can support make a diagnosis, discuss what you can expect, and help connect you with services and assistance. If you’re concerned they can also give you information about taking part in clinical trials.