Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is an irreversible brain disease that progressively impairs a person’s ability to remember, as well as other mental functions. In its latest stages, Alzheimer’s disease can seriously affect the ability to carry out basic daily activities.
The main risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age. Late-onset Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disease and occurs in people 65 or older. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is rarer but may be diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s. An estimated 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s, with the disease affecting as many as 50% of people over 85. Recent evidence suggests that it may be the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.
For many, Alzheimer’s may be the most dreaded of diseases because it gradually extinguishes the unique mental qualities that seem to make a person who she or he is. Understandable questions people may ask when considering the possibility of contracting Alzheimer’s disease are, Without my memories, what would remain of my life? Without the ability to clearly think about myself and the people around me, who would I be?
Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include memory problems, especially difficulty in remembering new information, and there may be a decline in other aspects of cognition as well. However, such symptoms do not necessarily indicate Alzheimer’s and may instead be a normal development of aging.
There is no definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s until after death when the brain can be analyzed; however, a medical examination using neuropsychological testing, a CT scan, and/or MRI results may lead a physician to rule out other forms of dementia and diagnose probable Alzheimer’s disease. Later symptoms of Alzheimer’s may include changes in mood or behavior, increasing confusion about events, times, and places, unsupported suspicions about family members and others, and difficulty swallowing or walking.
A great deal of research has been and continues to be dedicated to understanding Alzheimer’s, but the cause or causes of the disease remain undetermined. What is known about Alzheimer’s is that it is characterized by the development of plaques and tangled bundles of fibers in the brain. This development is accompanied by progressive loss of connection between the nerve cells that help people remember and think, and the eventual death of these cells. There is evidence that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s may be determined by a combination of genetic, environmental, and risk factors. One genetic risk factor may be having a certain form of the APOE gene.
The treatment and management of Alzheimer’s disease consists of medications and non-medication-based treatments such as maximizing patients’ opportunities for social interaction and participation in activities such as walking, singing, and dancing that they can still enjoy. Cognitive rehabilitation by doing memory strengthening exercises may be of benefit, but at present this remains unclear.
One bit of good news I can leave you with is that there is evidence that following a Mediterranean diet may decrease the probability of contracting Alzheimer’s disease. This news, combined with additional evidence that the same diet is protective against heart disease and some forms of cancer makes the Mediterranean diet well worth considering not only because it may reduce Alzheimer’s risk but for the sake of good health overall.
Until next time, please be well!
This info is purely created for awareness and self empowerment and is not for diagnosing of any medical conditions. Make sure to read my disclaimer.