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What You Need To Know About Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative, incurable and terminal disease of dementia, of which the cause and progression is not yet well understood by scientists. Alzheimer’s typically affects people 65 years old and above, but it can also have an earlier onset. The disease causes changes in the brain that get worse gradually, and the life expectancy is at an average of 7 years after diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s patients have a hard time processing new information and the disease causes loss of intellectual and social skills. Because of this, Alzheimer’s patients usually need round the clock day to day care from caregivers. In many cases, this is the spouse or the children of the patients, while in some cases is it a trained specialist. Either way, Alzheimer’s puts a heavy emotional and financial burden in the families of those involved.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 25 million people worldwide or about 50 to 80 percent of all dementia sufferers.  While age is a big risk factor for the disease, not all people will have Alzheimer’s. At the moment, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most researched conditions in the world because we have yet to understand what causes it, and only then can we move closer to finding a cure.

One of the first symptoms of the disease is increasing forgetfulness, and confusion. This could be something as simple as forgetting where they put their glasses or forgetting the names of close friends and relatives. This in time can move on to affecting the way someone speaks or writes. Most Alzheimer’s patients will usually exhibit the following:

  • Repetition of statements of questions within a short period of time
  • Forgetful of commitments, events and schedules
  • They misplace items such as glasses or bags, often placing them in unusual locations
  • Forgets the names of everyday objects and close family members
  • Disorientation, forgetting time and date, forgetting directions which may lead them to get lost even in familiar areas
  • Inability to deal with complex subjects like math leading them to become unable to balance their finances and pay bills
  • Changes in personality such as increased agitation, paranoia, irritability, anxiety, stubbornness and social withdrawal
  • Loss of ability to perform basic physical functions like swallowing, urinating or controlling bowel

If you notice the mentioned symptoms and suspect that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s you should consult with your doctor immediately, and bring a trusted friend or family along. If diagnosed with Alzheimer’s make sure to ask your doctor about all the questions you need to know about managing your condition, and all the options that you have for care. To determine whether you have Alzheimer’s or not, your doctor will most likely perform neurological testing as well as mental status testing and lab tests. Some will order more advance tests such as CT scans, MRI or PET scan if available, to see any physical changes in the brain.

There are medications currently on the market that can help sufferers alleviate symptoms associated with memory, but these are not cures. Your doctor will also advise you to create a safe environment for yourself while you still can, or for your loved one. This can be done by removing sharp objects around the house and removing clutter, providing handrails where needed (i.e. bathrooms and stairs), and reducing mirrors around the house (people with advanced Alzheimer’s may find images in mirrors confusing). Exercise is also an important component of managing the condition, as well as proper nutrition.

It is not exactly understood yet how we can prevent Alzheimer’s but certain studies suggest that some factors like the intake of NSAIDs, consumption of coffee in middle age and intellectual and social stimulation during the younger years play a role in preventing the disease. So far, the strongest evidence suggests that lowering the risk of heart disease also lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s.