Alzheimer's disease
Physical Health

A Comprehensive Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease

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Alzheimer’s Disease

An overview of Alzheimer’s disease

As a progressive neurologic disorder, Alzheimer’s disease causes the shrinking of a person’s brain and ultimately the dying of brain cells. This disease is known as a very common cause of dementia. When an individual has dementia, he or she is incapable of functioning independently because their thoughts, behavior, and social skills are continuously deteriorating.

Furthermore, people with Alzheimer’s disease tend to forget recent events or conversations (including those with their close ones) in the early stages. The disease will cause severe memory impairment and the inability to carry out everyday activities for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

Does aging contribute to Alzheimer’s disease?

A major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is aging, and most of the people living with this disease are over 65 years old. The term younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease refers to the condition if it affects individuals under the age of 65. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is also known as younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s younger-onset can be in the 

  • an early stage of the disease
  • the middle stage of the disease 
  • late stage of the disease.

Are medications effective in improving the condition of patients with Alzheimer’s?

There may be a temporary improvement or slowing of symptoms caused by medications. People with Alzheimer’s disease can sometimes benefit from these treatments by maximizing their function and maintaining their independence for a short period of time. The Alzheimer’s disease community and their caregivers can benefit from a variety of programs and services.

Alzheimer’s disease facts every person should know

Diseases affect different people uniquely. The same is the case with Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the fact that Alzheimer’s disease has been heard of by many people, there are some facts that are still important to learn about. 

This condition has the following key characteristics:

  • Alzheimer vs. Dementia: Having Alzheimer’s is different from having dementia. Moreover, it is required to know that it is a type of dementia.
  • Long-term & Chronic: The disease of Alzheimer’s is long-term and chronic and one can lose his life to death if not take any measures to ease its symptoms.
  • Impairs cognitive brain functionality: It causes a gradual decline of the brain, and its symptoms develop slowly with time as the disease moves towards more severity.
  • Age-group of 65+ are more prone: Almost everyone has a chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease, but certain people are more likely to get the disease. The condition is prevalent in people over 65 and those with a family history.
  • Non-curable: The disease does not yet have a cure, but treatment can slow its progression and improve quality of life.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary from mild to moderate to severe depending on different individuals.

1. Mild Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms

It’s common for someone with mild Alzheimer’s disease to appear healthy but be experiencing more and more difficulties understanding what’s going on around them. In such a scenario, the patient usually believes that something bad will happen to him or her soon or that his or her family will be affected in some way. 

  • A loss of memory: A person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease begins experiencing issues with memory when he/she starts experiencing memory loss as his/her daily activities are affected.
  • Wrong decisions due to poor judgment: Sadly, with the progression of the diseases an individual’s way of understanding things gets adversely affected. They find trouble learning about the situations and then understanding them properly. This is the reason their ability to talking accurate decisions also gets impaired. It’s not enough to simply define poor judgment as making bad decisions; it’s more complicated than that. Rather than a single poor decision, the poor judgment refers to a pattern of questionable decisions made by an individual over time.
  • Having a hard time completing daily tasks: While suffering from this disease, one’s brain gets impaired and is unable to perform functionality in a normal way and within a regular time span. Generally, Alzheimer’s patients take longer than normal to understand the situation and then act in response to the situation accordingly.
  • Asking the same question repeatedly: It can be tedious and frustrating to answer repetitive questions asked by an Alzheimer’s sufferer sometimes. However, they only indulge in such activities when they are already feeling agitated or anxious.
  • Inability to manage finances and pay bills: Progressive loss of memory makes it difficult for an Alzheimer’s patient to manage their finances and calculate and pay their bills.
  • Losing your way and wandering: When people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, they usually lose their ability to recognize the places with which they were familiar earlier. What’s worst is that they sometimes don’t even remember people’s faces. Oftentimes, patients wander, get lost, and don’t remember where they came from.
  • Inexplicable loss or misplacing of items: The loss of memory is a common cause of items being lost by people with Alzheimer’s. Frequently, people misplace their very common items, such as keys (of house or vehicle), mobile phones, wallets, and sunglasses, and then don’t remember where these things are.
  • Psychological changes and mood swings:  In the initial stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may experience mood swings or other psychological changes such as depression, irritation, anxiety etcetera.
  • Aggressiveness and/or anxiety: There is a reason behind people with Alzheimer’s disease getting anxious or upset frequently. Maybe they are not able to sleep at night and are feeling restless during the day. Further, these can affect their day-to-day life and make them feel anxious and aggressive.

However, the good thing is that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease at this stage is common.

2. Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms

The moderate stage of Alzheimer’s is worse than the mild one. There are chances that families and spouses can find this stage difficult because of the increased supervision and care needed for the patient. Here are some possible symptoms:

  • Increased memory loss and confusion: When a person reaches the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s, he/she suffers from an increased loss of memory and gets more confused even while dealing with different situations.
  • An inability to concentrate: Alzheimer’s patient finds it difficult to pay attention to any matter for so long.
  • Excessive anger: The level of anger increases in the case of the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s as compared to the mild stage.
  • Problems adjusting to new circumstances: Patients find it very troublesome dealing with new circumstances which usually results in making them frustrated.
  • An inability to recognize family members and friends: Alzheimer’s sufferer generally lose their ability to recognize their family members and even their close friends.
  • Lack of aptitude for learning new things: Learning new things becomes next to impossible for people suffering from this stage of Alzheimer’s, this may be due to a rapid increase in memory loss.
  • An inability to speak and read, write, and work with numbers: After reaching the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s disease people normally find themselves helpless while speaking, reading, writing, or are helpless with numbers too.
  • An inability to organize thoughts and think logically: Their thought process is also suffered as they are not capable of organizing their thoughts in a proper way and also have a problem thinking logically.
  • Having hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia: It is common for people suffering from the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s to have hallucinations (A hallucination is a sensory experience created by the mind that appears real but isn’t), delusions (A delusion is a false belief ) or paranoia (If you feel paranoid, you’re afraid of something happening to you.)
  • Excessive impulsive behavior: Sometimes patients show impulsive behavior at the wrong place and wrong moment like getting undressed at inappropriate times or locations, and sometimes using inappropriate language.
  • Feelings of Restlessness, Anxiety, agitation, or Wandering: Late afternoons and evenings of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are especially characterized by restlessness, agitation, anxiety, and wandering.
  • Muscle twitching or repetitive statements

3. Severe Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms

It is nearly impossible for people who have severe Alzheimer’s to communicate. At this stage, they have complete reliance on others for their care. A person may spend most of the time in bed near the end of their life as their body completely shuts down. They often exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Communication difficulties: At the last stage of Alzheimer’s, a patient feels difficulty communicating with others.
  • Increasing the amount of sleep: This stage is usually characterized by the excessive sleep of a patient which means that it is very common with people to sleep most of the time.
  • A skin infection: As the last stage of this disease is said to be a very difficult one to deal with, people normally get infected by skin infections.
  • Drop in weight: People lose their weight when got triggered by severe Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Seizure disorders: When the brain experiences a seizure, there is an uncontrollable electrical disturbance. There can be changes in behavior, thinking, and movements as well as a decrease in consciousness as a result of it. 
  • Suffering from swallowing difficulties:  There may be difficulty chewing and swallowing for the individual. Problems like this are serious. When swallowing becomes difficult, choking or aspiration may occur. As a result, pneumonia may develop, which may be fatal.
  • The sounds of groaning, moaning, or grunting: While sitting or even breathing, patients have a higher chance of moaning/groaning.
  • Control over the bowels and bladders is lost: Patients lose control of their bowels and bladders in the late stage of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s patients often die from aspiration pneumonia. Pneumonia of this type occurs when food or liquids enter the lungs instead of air as a result of difficulty swallowing.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be controlled with medicines, but the disease is not cured.

Factors that cause Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is generally not known to have one single cause. However, there are certain risk factors that have been identified by the experts, which include the followings:

  • Age Factor: Alzheimer’s disease tends to affect people over 65 years old.
  • Genetics: Genetic factors may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Family History of Patient: Your chances of developing the condition are higher if you have a close family member who has the condition.

Additionally, there is no certainty that you will develop Alzheimer’s disease if you have one or more of these risk factors. However, it only increases the level of risk of getting this disease.

In addition to the aforementioned risk factors, there are a few more potential risk factors associated with an individual’s history of:

  • Depression or mood disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Injuries to the brain from previous trauma

In case you are worried that you are facing any of the above-mentioned factors and think that this could be Alzheimer then it is advised to get in touch with your doctor.

How Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be diagnosed till the person’s existence. It can only be diagnosed definitively after someone has died and too by examining their brain tissue.

You can, however, be diagnosed with dementia and ruled out of other conditions using other examinations and tests that are performed by your healthcare professional. In order to start these examinations and test the healthcare professional may ask you about your medical history.

The following is the list of questions that your healthcare provider may ask:

  • Symptoms: The healthcare provider may ask you the symptoms you have been dealing with have been dealing with and since how long you are facing those symptoms.
  • Conditions that are currently or have been present in the past: Another question a healthcare professional may ask is whether there are any new conditions that you are tackling or were in the past.
  • A family history of medical problems: Doctors can ask about the medical issues running in your family.
  • Medication taken currently or in the past: You might be asked by your healthcare provider about the medications you are taking at the current stage or were taken in the past.
  • A person’s diet and alcohol consumption, as well as other lifestyle factors: Healthcare professionals can ask you about your diet and whether you are consuming alcohol, and various other factors related to your lifestyle can be questioned by them.

Preventive Measures for Alzheimer’s Disease

As we know that Alzheimer’s has no known cure, and so is the case of its prevention. Nevertheless, even if there are no satisfactory preventative measures exist for Alzheimer’s. At the moment, the best way to prevent cognitive decline is to develop health-promoting lifestyle habits which can assist a person to combat it to some extent.

Here are some steps you may find helpful:

  • Exercise regularly. The benefits of physical activity include reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Keep your brain active. A person should opt for exercises that improve cognitive function can be helpful.
  • Healthy meals. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet, because eating a nutritious diet is a step toward your health.
  • Self-Care: One must follow a self-care routine by indulging in their favorite activities like getting a massage, outdoor activities, watching their favorite show on TV, a short trip to their favorite destinations etcetera.
  • Quit smoking. The benefits of quitting smoking are long-term as well as immediate.
  • Stay Socially Active. Staying socially active is likely to help you deal with many diseases as your overall health will be improved by being with your friends (you spend the best time with your close friends), and hobbies (choosing hobbies wisely is a great help for a person’s physical health as well as mental health).

Medications to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is incurable. In order to ease your symptoms and delay the progression of the disease, your doctor can prescribe medications and other treatments.

The medications such as:

  • Donepezil (Aricept) 
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon) 

are commonly prescribed by doctors for people dealing with early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s. Acetylcholine levels in the brain can be maintained with these drugs. 

Further, this will result in improving the communication between the patient’s brain’s nerve cells. Then there are higher chances of Alzheimer’s symptoms getting milder.

In addition, aducanumab (Aduhelm) is a newer medication for early-stage Alzheimer’s patients who need to take it to keep their dementia under control. A study suggests that it reduces the accumulation of protein plaques in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The potential benefits of this drug, however, are weighed against its risks.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the following are the medicines you’re your healthcare professional may prescribe:

Donepezil (Aricept)

or

Memantine (Namenda) 

How does Memantine helpful in this condition?

Glutamate is a type of brain chemical which is produced in higher amounts in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. When a person suffers from Alzheimer’s disease strikes, glutamate levels in the brain increase, damaging brain cells. However, excess glutamates can be blocked by memantine.

What Healthierfolks want to say?

One must always keep a check on his/her health. If he/she is dealing with any disease which might not seem to be severe at the beginning, still one should consult with his/her healthcare provider to have the right opinion. Scientists are trying to unravel the secrets of Alzheimer’s disease. It may be helpful in preventing ourselves from these types of diseases if we opt for healthy lifestyle habits. Getting a professional’s opinion is important in case you or a family member have a history of Alzheimer’s.

Do consult your doctor if you or someone you love has Alzheimer’s. It is because Alzheimer’s disease progresses rapidly by the time it is diagnosed. You can, however, benefit from treatment by delaying symptoms and improving your quality of life. There are chances that the symptoms of this disease get milder.

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