Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and cause brain neurons to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a continuing decline in thinking, behavior, and social skills that affects a person’s ability to live independently.
In the United States, about 5.8 million people 65 years and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Of these, 80% are 75 years or older. Of the approximately 50 & nbsp; million people with dementia worldwide, an estimated 60 & nbsp;% to 70 & nbsp;% have Alzheimer’s disease.
Early signs of the disease include forgetting about recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will experience severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Medications can temporarily improve symptoms or slow their progression. These treatments can help people with Alzheimer’s disease to maximize their function and function independently for a time. There are different programs and services to support people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.
There is no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s disease or alters the course of the disease in the brain. In the advanced stages of the disease, complications from severe loss of brain function (such as dehydration, malnutrition, or infection) lead to death.
Memory loss is a key symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. The first signs include difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory problems worsen and other symptoms develop.
At first, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may be aware that they have trouble remembering things and organizing thoughts. A family member or friend is more likely to notice symptoms worsening.
The changes that Alzheimer’s disease makes in the brain lead to growing problems that affect the following:
Everyone has occasional blackouts, but the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists, worsens, and affects the ability to function at work and at home.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit the following behaviors:
-Repeat affirmations and questions over and over again
-Forgetting about conversations, appointments, or events, and not remembering them later
-Systematically placing personal items in the wrong place, often in absurd places
-Get lost in places they already know
-Finally, forgetting the names of relatives and everyday objects
-Have trouble identifying objects with the correct words, expressing thoughts, or participating in conversations
Thinking and reasoning
Alzheimer’s disease causes problems concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts, such as numbers.
Multitasking is also particularly difficult, and managing finances, bringing bills up to date, and paying bills on time are all tasks that can be challenging. Ultimately, a person with Alzheimer’s disease cannot recognize and handle numbers.
Make assessments and make decisions
Alzheimer’s disease causes a decline in the ability to make reasonable decisions and judgments in everyday situations. For example, a person may make bad or unusual choices in social interactions or wear inappropriate clothing for the weather. It can be more difficult to respond effectively to everyday problems, such as food being burned on the stove or faced with an unforeseen situation while driving.
Plan and do family activities
As the disease worsens, activities that were once part of the routine and that required sequential steps, such as planning and preparing a meal or playing a favorite game, become difficult. Over time, people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease often forget how to do basic tasks, such as dressing and bathing.
Changes in personality and behavior
The brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect mood and behavior. Problems can include the following:
Mistrust in others
Irritability and aggressiveness
Changes in sleep patterns
Loss of inhibition
Delusions, like believing that you were robbed
Many important skills are preserved for long periods even as symptoms worsen. Preserved skills may include reading or listening to books, telling stories and remembering, singing, listening to music, dancing, drawing, or doing crafts.
These abilities can be preserved longer because they are controlled by a part of the brain that is affected later in the course of the disease.
When to see a doctor
Some disorders, including treatable disorders, can cause memory loss or other symptoms of dementia. If you’re concerned about your memory or other reasoning skills, talk to your doctor for a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis.
If you are concerned about the reasoning skills you observe in a family member or friend, talk about your concerns and ask them to go to a doctor’s appointment together.
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not fully understood. But at a basic level, brain proteins do not function normally, disrupting the work of brain neurons and causing a series of toxic events. Neurons become damaged, lose connections with each other, and eventually die.
Scientists believe that, in most cases, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that affect the brain over time.
Less than 1% of the time, Alzheimer’s disease occurs from specific genetic changes that virtually guarantee that a person will develop the disease. These rare cases usually lead to the onset of the disease in middle age.
Damage most often begins in the region of the brain that controls memory, but the process begins years before the first symptoms. The loss of neurons spreads in a somewhat predictable pattern to other regions of the brain. In the advanced stage of the disease, brain tissue is considerably reduced.
Researchers trying to understand the cause of Alzheimer’s disease focus on the role of two proteins:
- Plates Amyloid beta is a fragment of a larger protein. When these fragments clump together, they appear to have a toxic effect on neurons and disrupt communication between cells. These clumps form larger deposits called amyloid plaques, which also include other cellular debris..
- Balls. Tau proteins play a role in a neuron’s internal support and transport system for transporting nutrients and other essential materials. In Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins change shape and organize themselves into structures called neurofibrillary tangles. The tangles disrupt the transport system and are toxic to neurons.
Advanced age is the risk factor that most affects Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is not part of normal aging, but as you get older the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease increases.
For example, according to one study, each year there were four new diagnoses for every 1,000 people aged 65 to 74, 32 new diagnoses for every 1,000 people aged 75 to 84, and 76 new diagnoses for every 1,000 people aged 85 and over.
Family history and genetics
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is slightly higher if a first-degree relative (father or brother) has the disease. Most of the genetic mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease within the family group are still unknown, and the genetic factors are likely to be complex.
A more studied genetic factor is a form of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene. A variation of the APOE e4 gene increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. About 25 to 30% of the population carries an APOE E4 allele, but not everyone with this variation of the gene develops the disease.
Scientists have identified rare changes (mutations) in three genes that virtually guarantee that a person who inherits one of them will develop Alzheimer’s disease. However, these mutations represent less than 1% of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Many people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease. This is probably related to having three copies of chromosome 21 and subsequently three copies of the gene for the protein that leads to the creation of beta-amyloid. The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease usually appear 10 to 20 years earlier in people with Down syndrome than in people in the general population.
There appears to be little difference in risk between men and women, but overall, more women have the disease as they tend to live longer than men.
Mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is a stage that affects memory or other thinking skills to a greater extent than normal for a person’s age, but does not prevent the sufferer from functioning in social or work settings.
People with mild cognitive impairment have a significant risk of dementia. When the primary deficit of mild cognitive impairment is memory, the patient more likely to develop dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment encourages the patient to focus more on healthy lifestyle changes, create strategies to compensate for memory loss, and schedule regular doctor appointments to manage symptoms.
People who have suffered a severe head injury are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Several large studies found that in people 50 and older who had a traumatic brain injury, the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is higher. The risk is increased in people with multiple and more severe traumatic brain injuries. Some studies indicate that the risk may be highest within the first six months to two years after traumatic brain injury.
According to animal studies, air pollution particles can accelerate the degeneration of the nervous system. And, according to human studies, exposure to air pollution, particularly from exhaust fumes from traffic and burning wood, is associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Excessive alcohol consumption
Drinking large amounts of alcohol has long been known to cause changes in the brain. In several large studies and reviews, alcohol use disorders were found to be linked to an increased risk of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia.
Poor sleep patterns
According to research, poor sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lifestyle and heart health
Research has shown that the same risk factors associated with heart disease can also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of them are the following:
Lack of exercise
Smoking or second-hand smoke
High blood pressure
Poorly controlled type 2 diabetes
All of these factors can be modified. Therefore, changing your lifestyle can, to some extent, change your risk. For example, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Permanent education and participation in social activities
According to the studies carried out, there is an association between permanent participation in mental and social stimulation activities and a lower risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Low educational levels, below secondary education, appear to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory and language loss, impaired judgment, and other cognitive changes caused by Alzheimer’s disease can complicate treatment for other diseases. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to do the following:
- Express that you feel pain
- Report symptoms of another illness
- Follow an indicated treatment plan
- Report medication side effects
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses into the later stages, changes in the brain begin to affect physical functions, such as swallowing, balance, and bowel and bladder control. These effects can increase vulnerability to other health problems, such as the following:
Inhaling food or liquids into the lungs (aspiration)
Flu, pneumonia, and other infections
Malnutrition and dehydration
Constipation or diarrhea
Dental problems such as mouth sores or cavities
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that cannot be prevented. However, a number of risk factors can be modified in our lifestyle for Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence suggests that changes in diet, exercise, and habits (steps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease) may also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia. Options for a heart-healthy lifestyle that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease include the following:
Get regular exercise
Eat a diet of fresh products, healthy oils and foods low in saturated fat, such as the Mediterranean diet
Follow treatment guidelines to control high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol
If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit
Studies have shown that participating in social events, reading, dancing, playing board games, creating art, playing musical instruments, and other activities that require mental and social engagement help maintain intellectual abilities in adulthood and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.