Alzheimer’s disease is caused by an abnormal build-up of two proteins – amyloid and tau – in the brain. These deposits form plaques and tangles around nerve cells.
These damage and kill nerve cells. This causes problems with memory, thinking and personality.
That cause alzheimer
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that causes memory loss, confusion and changes in personality. The disease can’t be cured, but healthcare providers and caregivers can help slow its progression so that people can live as comfortably as possible.
Alzheimer’s begins when nerve cells in the brain stop functioning and lose connections with each other. Eventually, the damage spreads to other areas of the brain. It’s caused by toxic changes to the brain that are most often seen in regions involved in learning and memory.
It’s believed that these changes occur when clumps of a fragment of a protein called beta-amyloid build up inside neurons and between neurons in certain areas of the brain. These clumps form abnormal deposits called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which can disrupt the normal communication between brain cells.
The buildup of these proteins is believed to be caused by certain risk factors. These include genetics, family history and health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
A head injury may also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. Research has shown that people who have suffered a major head injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or stroke, are more likely to develop the disease.
Other factors that can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s include age, gender and family history. For most people, the risk increases with age. Women tend to have a higher rate of the disease than men do.
Those with a faulty version of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene on chromosome 19 are at higher risk of Alzheimer’s. Those with other risk factors, such as Down syndrome and cardiovascular issues, are at even higher risk of developing the disease.
It is thought that a person’s brain cells begin to change years before they show symptoms of Alzheimer’s. These changes lead to the clumping of beta-amyloid and tau protein deposits inside and outside neurons. They also lead to a decrease in the chemical messengers that nerve cells use to communicate with each other. These are known as neurotransmitters, and levels of one of these chemicals, acetylcholine, are particularly low in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Signs of alzheimer’s disease
Memory loss, especially forgetting things that happened recently, is the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. It can be a problem for anyone but it becomes worse with Alzheimer’s.
A person with Alzheimer’s may also have other signs of a brain disorder, such as confusion or mood changes. These symptoms can be difficult for your loved one to deal with and can affect their ability to communicate, so it’s important to speak to your doctor about any changes.
Some of these changes may be a normal part of getting older, but they are usually a sign that your loved one is experiencing dementia. These changes include irritability, depression, aggression, sleep problems and increased agitation.
During the early stages of dementia, the symptoms appear gradually to your loved one and family. They often don’t realise that they’re affected by Alzheimer’s and this is why it’s important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis.
This stage can be very distressing for your loved one and will make day-to-day tasks more difficult, as they struggle to recognise people, remember where things are and find their way around. They will become increasingly reliant on others for help and may start to need round-the-clock care.
The signs of this stage will often include a decline in their mobility, particularly walking and sitting. They may also become more frail and vulnerable to falls or other injuries.
There is no cure for this stage, but treatments can help stabilise and slow the progress of cognitive and behavioral symptoms, and improve quality of life. Medication options include cholinesterase inhibitors, which are used to ease memory loss, confusion and other cognitive difficulties.
Some of these medications can also treat behavior problems, such as agitation and aggression. These drugs can have side effects and are typically only prescribed for short periods, once safer non-drug therapies have been tried first.
In the final stage of dementia, your loved one will not be able to communicate and may become completely dependent on others for care. They will often need to be in bed most of the time and may become unresponsive as their body shuts down.
Treatment for alzheimer’s disease
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease yet, but some medications are available to help slow the progression of the disease and reduce symptoms. These include cholinesterase inhibitors, which boost the levels of acetylcholine in the brain, a chemical that’s important for memory and thinking.
A new medication approved by the FDA, called aducanumab, reduces amyloid plaques in the brain and can help people with early Alzheimer’s disease – mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s – maintain some of their daily functions for longer than they could without this treatment. This drug, which is marketed as Aduhelm, is administered via intravenous infusion every four weeks.
Other treatments are based on behavioral and emotional approaches, such as validation therapy, where caregivers try to create an atmosphere of acceptance, compassion and understanding that’s safe for the person with Alzheimer’s. This type of treatment can make a big difference for a person with Alzheimer’s because it addresses non-cognitive symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression and hallucinations that are common in people with Alzheimer’s.
Some people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s can use a drug known as memantine, which acts as an NMDA antagonist and helps to control some of the more extreme behavioral symptoms of the disease. Memantine can also slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and allow some people to maintain their independence for longer, such as being able to use the toilet.
Another treatment for Alzheimer’s is a drug called lecanemab, which can reduce the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain. This drug is approved for people with early Alzheimer’s disease who have confirmation of elevated beta-amyloid plaques in their brain.
Despite the availability of these medicines, many people with Alzheimer’s still have some difficulty coping with the loss of their mental function and control of their behavior. They benefit from effective care and support throughout the course of their illness, including counseling and local support services.
The main goal of these treatment strategies is to improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. These therapies may include behavioral and emotional approaches, specialized caregiver training, social support programs and educational seminars.
How to prevent alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia, which means it causes memory loss and other problems with thinking, learning and behavior. It affects people of all ages, but it most often affects adults age 65 and older.
In most cases, Alzheimer’s is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. In less than 1% of cases, a specific genetic change (called a mutation) almost guarantees that a person will develop Alzheimer’s.
Researchers believe that this mutation disrupts the function of brain proteins. One of these proteins is called beta-amyloid, which clumps into plaques in and around brain cells. This clumping interferes with the signal-sending chemicals (called neurotransmitters) in the brain. The resulting damage to neurons and loss of communication between them may lead to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Another protein, tau, also clumps to form tangles within brain cells. The tangles block the flow of information between cells, and they also cause shrinkage of the brain.
These changes aren’t easy to see, but they can be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease. They can include irritability, anxiety, depression and restlessness, as well as sleep disturbances.
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one might be developing Alzheimer’s, talk to your doctor about taking a test. This will tell your doctor if you have a genetic variant that increases your risk of getting the disease.
It also lets your doctor know if you have other health conditions that may be putting you at risk for Alzheimer’s, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Your doctor can help you manage these conditions and reduce your risk.
Diet and exercise are also important. A heart-healthy diet that limits saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Avoid smoking, as it raises your risk of developing the disease. And, if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, get them checked.
A good diet and regular exercise can help you live a healthy, active life for many years. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products can help you reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.