Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that causes memory loss and other problems. It usually develops over time and is often worse with age.
It is caused by clumps of abnormal proteins that form in the brain and disrupt nerve cells’ ability to communicate. These ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ also damage the cells’ nerves, causing them to shrink and die.
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Alzheimer’s Disease is a chronic, progressive brain disorder that causes memory loss, thinking problems and changes in personality. It can affect people of any age, but is most common in older adults.
It is caused by the abnormal build-up of two proteins: amyloid, which forms plaques around brain cells; and tau, which tangles inside those cells. These deposits can cause damage to nerve cells and, in turn, can make them lose their ability to function properly.
This process can begin years before any symptoms appear, and may cause the loss of neurons, the cells that carry signals between brain cells. It also causes a decrease in the chemicals called neurotransmitters that transmit messages between nerve cells.
There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. These include genetic (hereditary) factors, lifestyle factors and environmental factors.
A person’s age is the biggest risk factor, but other things can also play a role in whether they develop Alzheimer’s. For example, some people are at a greater risk of developing dementia if their parents or grandparents developed it before they reached the age of 65.
Having a genetic chromosome disorder known as Down syndrome can also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This condition occurs when a person has an extra copy of chromosome 21. This extra copy of chromosome 21 can cause a protein to be made that leads to the formation of beta-amyloid, which is one of the proteins that can form plaques in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s.
Although there are no cures for Alzheimer’s, certain medications can help with symptoms such as memory loss and confusion. These medications can help improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s and their families, and also can reduce the risk of death from this disease.
Another way to lower your risk of developing dementia is by staying mentally and socially active. Research has shown that engaging in activities that stimulate the mind throughout your life can help you to feel more positive and live longer.
Other ways to reduce your risk of dementia are by getting plenty of exercise, eating a healthy diet and taking steps to prevent heart disease. Some studies have found that avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol can also significantly lower your risk of developing dementia. Those who are at a higher risk of dementia should consult a doctor about the best course of action to reduce their risk.
Signs of alzheimer’s disease
There are several different symptoms that can signal Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to recognize them so that you can seek treatment.
The first sign of Alzheimer’s is often memory loss. You may have noticed that your loved one has problems remembering things, such as their phone number or the name of a friend or family member.
You may also notice that they are confused about time, seasons or dates. They can also have trouble keeping track of their health, like how many glasses of water they drink each day or whether they need to take their medications.
These changes can affect the person’s daily life and they can be difficult for their family to live with. It’s important to see your GP or other healthcare professional right away.
A very common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is a change in your loved one’s mood. They may become anxious or depressed, and they might not want to go to social events.
Another sign of Alzheimer’s disease is a change to their sense of humor. They may start saying funny things that don’t make sense or aren’t true.
Other signs of Alzheimer’s disease include problems with language, reasoning and orientation. These changes can get worse as the disease progresses. They need more help with their activities of daily living and they may need to be moved from their home to a nursing home or other care facility.
Medications can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. These medications prevent the breakdown of a chemical called acetylcholine in the brain.
Some medicines can also improve mood and feelings of anxiety or depression. They can also help people sleep better.
You can also help your loved one stay active by getting them involved in activities and hobbies. You can also encourage them to visit a senior or memory care center and participate in community services.
Your GP or other healthcare professional can help you decide on the best course of action for your loved one. This may include medication, diet and exercise, and therapy or support groups.
Your GP or other healthcare professional can also refer you to a specialist doctor for more testing. These tests can help determine the type of dementia your loved one has and can tell you what treatments are available.
Treatment for alzheimer’s disease
There aren’t any cures for Alzheimer’s disease, but a few drugs may help ease the symptoms and make it easier for people to live with the condition. There are also some non-drug therapies that can help treat common behavioral and emotional symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as sleeplessness, agitation, anxiety, depression, restlessness and wandering.
Drugs that increase the amount of a chemical messenger called acetylcholine in the brain can ease some cognitive symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion. These medications are called cholinesterase inhibitors and are available as liquid, immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (ER) tablets. They also can be given as an injection or infusion.
Another medication, donepezil (Namzaric), can also be used to treat mild Alzheimer’s symptoms. It’s available as a combination of Namenda and Aricept or as an immediate-release (IR) or extended-release (ER) pill. It’s not used to treat severe dementia, but it is helpful for people who don’t get much benefit from Namenda or Aricept alone.
Doctors also prescribe medicines for other health problems that often happen with Alzheimer’s, such as depression, sleeplessness and behavior problems like agitation and aggression. These medicines may be prescribed for short periods, and they don’t reverse the progress of Alzheimer’s, but they can improve people’s quality of life.
Other treatments that are in clinical trials try to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s by reducing the number of amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles in the brain. These proteins are the hallmarks of the disease, and scientists are studying how they form into plaques and tangles in the brain.
They are also investigating how enzymes that clip beta-amyloid from its parent protein, amyloid precursor protein (APP), can stop plaques from forming. Researchers are working to develop a drug that can prevent beta-amyloid clumps from forming in the brain and also reduce the number of tau tangles.
Medications for behavioral and emotional symptoms of Alzheimer’s include antidepressants, antipsychotics and other drugs. These medicines may help people with agitation, mood swings, and hallucinations. They can also be used to manage aggression or a person’s ability to communicate with others.
How to prevent alzheimer’s disease
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are ways to help prevent it. Researchers have found that lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of developing it by as much as one-third.
A healthy diet, exercise and sleep are among the best ways to keep your brain sharp for as long as possible. These habits also improve your overall health and lower your risk for chronic conditions that can affect the brain, including heart disease and high blood pressure.
Eating more antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, may protect against Alzheimer’s by reducing the number of harmful plaques and tangles in your brain. Other healthy eating habits, such as cutting back on sugar, can reduce your brain’s inflammation and strengthen its immune system.
Exercising can also help maintain a healthy weight and control your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is a contributing factor to oxidative stress, which can cause the development of plaques and tangles in your mind.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can boost your memory, reduce stress and improve mood. It’s also linked to lower blood pressure and lower your risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
Taking vitamins and supplements, like B12, D3 and zinc, can also keep your brain healthy. Talk to your doctor about which supplements are right for you.
Avoiding alcohol is another way to minimize your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Research shows that heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
If you’re worried about the health of a loved one, talk to their doctor or neurologist to find out if they have signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. The earlier a person receives treatment, the better their chances of recovery and fewer symptoms.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may forget where they put things or even how to do simple tasks. This can cause them to lose their independence. They may become irritable or angry, and they may have difficulty making decisions or remembering how to take care of themselves.
People with Alzheimer’s may show signs of decreased or poor judgment, such as giving large sums of money to telemarketers or falling prey to scam artists. They may neglect personal hygiene or not clean their home as often as they used to.