Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that causes problems with memory and other thinking skills. It affects people of all ages.
The disease begins with abnormal build-up of proteins called amyloid and tau in the brain. These proteins form plaques and tangles that block nerve cells from communicating properly. This causes them to die over time.
That cause alzheimer
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a medical term for the loss of mental function caused by brain damage. It usually affects older people, but less common forms can appear in younger adults.
Scientists are still trying to understand what causes this condition. However, there are a few key factors that have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. These include genetic (hereditary) factors, family history and health conditions such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Genetics: Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s is largely determined by the variant (difference) in your apolipoprotein E gene. Some people have a ‘risk’ form of this gene, called APOE-e4, which increases their risk of the disease. Alternatively, they may have a ‘protective’ form of this gene, called APOE-e2, which lowers their risk.
Familial Alzheimer’s: People who have a rare type of Alzheimer’s called familial Alzheimer’s have an unusual change in the genes presenilin 1, presenilin 2 and amyloid precursor protein (APP). They can be diagnosed before they reach age 60, with their symptoms often appearing in their 40s or 50s.
These changes can cause a build-up of a sticky substance called beta-amyloid in the brain, which then kills off brain cells. Anti-amyloid drugs are now being tested to try to slow or stop this process.
In the future, the research may be able to target the amyloid plaques before they have a chance to develop and destroy brain cells. This could help people with early-onset Alzheimer’s have a better chance of survival, says Dr. Bateman, senior investigator at the Institute of Neurology in London.
Lifestyle: A healthy diet, regular exercise and social interaction are known to improve your general health and wellbeing, and can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. But, like most diseases, there are other factors that can also increase your risk.
Head trauma: A recent study found that a blow to the head could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 40%. Other factors that may raise your risk include a family history of Alzheimer’s and high levels of a chemical called homocysteine in your blood.
Signs of alzheimer’s disease
People with Alzheimer’s disease often have memory lapses or forgetfulness. This can look like the normal aging process, but it is usually an early sign of Alzheimer’s and should be treated as soon as possible.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, problems with memory can be a big worry for family members and carers. They may notice changes in the person’s behaviour and their daily activities – for example, they might become anxious or depressed or lose interest in things that used to bring them pleasure.
They might also forget details of recent events, such as appointments or phone numbers. They may have difficulty remembering how to do a simple task, such as getting dressed or cooking dinner.
It is not always easy to spot the signs of dementia, especially if they are rapidly getting worse. This is why it’s important to visit your GP as soon as you see any of these symptoms and discuss them with them.
At the same time, if you have any concerns about your loved one, it’s always a good idea to get them checked out by their GP too. They can check their brain function, and do other tests to rule out other conditions that might be causing the problem.
The most common way to diagnose dementia is through a medical examination of the person’s memory. This involves a physical exam, and sometimes an interview with them to find out more about their lifestyle.
In some cases, a neurologist might be called in for a further medical assessment. If the neurologist thinks that the person has Alzheimer’s disease, they will recommend treatment and support.
A neurologist can also refer the person to a specialist in dementia, such as a psychiatrist or a geriatrician. These professionals can help with the practical aspects of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, such as arranging day-to-day support and helping them to live more independently.
There are three main stages of Alzheimer’s disease – preclinical, mild and advanced. Each stage has its own set of signs, but they all usually progress in a similar way. Knowing these stages helps healthcare providers and family members make decisions about how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Treatment for alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is not a curable condition, but there are several medicines available that can help with some symptoms and make life easier for people with the disease. These medications work by modifying how certain brain cells communicate with each other. Some drugs work by reducing the amount of amyloid plaques that build up in your brain. Others improve your memory, reduce agitation or prevent new brain damage from happening.
Drugs that increase the level of acetylcholine in your brain may help slow the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms, including memory loss. They’re called cholinesterase inhibitors, and they’re the only approved drugs for this purpose.
They also work by boosting the levels of another neurotransmitter called glutamate, which helps nerve cells communicate with each other. Namenda and Namzaric are two drugs that combine these approaches.
These medicines don’t cure Alzheimer’s, but they can improve some memory problems and decrease behavioral symptoms. The side effects of these medicines can be serious, so people should be carefully monitored when taking them.
Behavioral treatments for alzheimer’s include anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medicines. They can ease agitation and aggression, but they can also cause sleepiness, dizziness and falls, so they should be used with caution.
Caregivers can also help people with Alzheimer’s cope with their condition by helping them organize their daily activities and by minimizing distractions. They can keep the person with Alzheimer’s in a familiar living environment and provide comfort items, such as favorite stuffed animals or blankets.
Research is also being done to find ways to treat the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which often develop before the symptoms of dementia actually start. Scientists are testing different approaches, such as a medication called lecanemab that is shown to clear amyloid plaques and other biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease in some people.
There is also a new drug, aducanumab (Aduhelm(tm)), that has received accelerated approval from the FDA to treat mild cognitive impairment or early-stage dementia due to Alzheimer’s. It’s the first drug specifically designed to help reduce amyloid plaques in the brain.
A good treatment plan will involve a combination of strategies that focus on the needs of your loved one and you as their caregiver. Talking about what’s important to you, your goals and expectations for the treatment you receive can help you work together with your health care team.
How to prevent alzheimer’s disease
The best way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is to avoid getting it in the first place. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk, including a healthy diet, regular physical activity and good sleep.
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t fully understood. But it is thought that certain proteins build up in and around the brain cells, forming plaques and tangles. These tangles block communication between nerve cells. This slows and interferes with brain cells’ normal functions, including memory.
These changes can begin years before a person shows any symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This stage is called preclinical Alzheimer’s and is usually mild and may be hard to notice.
People who have this stage of the disease still seem like normal people to others, but their memory may be less clear and they might have trouble thinking about things or remembering what has happened in the past. They might also have problems with concentration and problem-solving.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatment options to help people live longer and improve their quality of life. These include drugs that improve memory and mood, as well as support for the family.
Some of the medications can cause side effects, so you should talk with your doctor before taking them. You can also ask your doctor about exercise and other ways to boost your cognitive health, which may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have found that a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors affects your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. In some cases, people develop the disease because of a rare gene glitch.
But in most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of risk factors that can be changed. These include age, family history and having a healthy lifestyle.
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease is highest in men, women ages 65 and older, and those who have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with the disease. But, for most people, the risk is much lower if they have a healthy lifestyle and don’t smoke.
A healthy lifestyle can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases that can damage the brain. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety, two other conditions that can increase your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease. The best way to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease is to stay active, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke and get adequate sleep.