Posted on : September 22, 2023 by Clinic One on Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common and complex diseases to cure and manage in the field of neurodegenerative disorders.
As people around the globe get older, the cases and burden of disease grow, affecting not just those diagnosed with the condition but also their families and caretakers.
This blog aims to provide a description of Alzheimer’s disease, including its history, risk factors, signs and symptoms, treatment, and preventive measures.
History of Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early 90s, a doctor named Dr. Alois Alzheimer’s diagnosed a German patient with an unusual symptom that was happening at a young age. Dr. Alzheimer interviewed that patient over the next year.
Dr. Alzheimer asked Auguste to recall common facts about her life and assess her understanding of where she is in these interviews. Questions such as:
“What’s your husband’s name?”
“How old are you?”
“Where are you right now?”
The German patient was unable to respond to those questions. Auguste’s cognitive function has declined significantly after five years in a rehabilitation center with no therapy for her problems, and finally, she passed away.
Dr. Alzheimer wanted to investigate the patient’s brain and medical records. So, while examining her brain, he noticed that it had shrunk in some parts and found various abnormal deposits which were plaques and tangles: the two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Alzheimer determined that Auguste suffered from an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people under the age of 65. He also believed that the plaques and tangles he discovered in Auguste’s brain were caused by her condition.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that gradually impairs memory and thinking skills, as well as the ability to perform daily activities.
Dementia is characterized by a loss of cognitive functions, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, to the extent that it interferes with a person’s everyday life and activities.
AD currently affects 12 million people worldwide. It is characterized by changes in the brain that result in protein accumulation. Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to shrink and, eventually, brain cells to die.
This number is likely to triple with the aging of the baby boom generation by 2050. The prevalence rate for AD is about 7% for individuals aged 65 or more, and the risk doubles every 5 years after age 65.
- Increased age (Over 65 years of age)
- Increased cholesterol level
- Coronary artery disease
Other Risk Factors
- Genetic Predisposition
- Down syndrome
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Plasma homocysteine
- Mild cognitive impairment
Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease
According to the CDC, the following are the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Memory loss that affects daily activities
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at any place
- Difficulty in understanding visual images
- New issues in words with speaking and writing
- Relying on someone else to decide and respond to issues they usually handle themselves
Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
There are three clinical stages of AD with different signs and symptoms.
1. Mild stage
Memory loss continues as AD becomes more severe and changes in other cognitive functions emerge.
Symptoms in this stage can include:
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Trouble handling money and paying bills
- Repeating questions
- Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
- Poor judgment leads to bad decisions
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places
- Mood and personality change
2. Moderate stage
At this stage, higher levels of observation and care are required. These changes and growing needs can be challenging for many spouses and families.
Symptoms in this stage can include:
- Increased memory loss and confusion.
- Withdrawal from social activities.
- Inability to learn new things.
- Shortened attention span.
- Changes in sleeping patterns.
- Impulsive behavior.
- Repetitive statements or movements.
3. Severe stage
People with severe Alzheimer’s disease are unable to communicate effectively and are totally dependent on others for care. As the individual is nearing the end of their life, they may spend most or all their time in bed as their body shuts down.
Symptoms in this stage can include:
- No awareness of recent experiences or surroundings.
- Weight loss with little interest in eating.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Groaning, moaning, or grunting.
- General physical decline.
- Increased sleeping
According to the CDC, the following preventive measures can be followed:
- Prevent and manage high blood pressure.
- Manage blood sugar levels.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Be physically active.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid excessive drinking.
- Prevent and correct hearing loss.
- Get enough sleep.
There is no cure for AD, however, few treatments can help to manage the symptoms and slow the progression of AD.
In a nutshell, Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult and complex neurological condition that affects millions of people worldwide.
Despite decades of research and significant progress in understanding its underlying causes, there is still much to learn about this terrible disease.
Alzheimer’s disease continues to be a major global health concern, not just for those directly affected but also for society.
Key points to remember about Alzheimer’s Disease:
- AD is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.
- Currently, it affects 12 million people worldwide.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among the elderly.
- Risk factors include Increased age (Over 65 years of age), hypertension, and genetic issues.
- Signs and symptoms include poor judgment, getting lost, seizures, impulsive behavior and inability to communicate.
- Symptomatic management of AD can lower its progression.
REFERENCES: CDC. (2022, September 13). Reducing Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/reducing-risk-of-alzheimers-disease/index.htm Risk Factors. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://alzheimersprevention.org/alzheimers-info/risk-factors/ The history behind Alzheimer’s disease. (n.d.). Alzheimer Society of Canada. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from http://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/what-alzheimers-disease/history-behind-alzheimers-disease What Are the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-signs-alzheimers-disease What Is Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-alzheimers-disease
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