Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate and die, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease is known as the most common form of dementia.
The early signs of this disease include forgetting recent events and conversations. As the disease progresses, an individual with Alzheimer’s disease develops severe memory worsening and loses the ability to perform everyday tasks.
There is no such treatment that can cure Alzheimer’s disease or which can alter this process in the brain. In further stages of the disease, further complications can occur such as severe loss of brain functioning – such as an infection, dehydration, or malnutrition which may lead to death.
Memory loss is the main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. The initial sign of this disease is usually difficulty in recalling recent events and conversations. Later with the progression, the symptoms become more severe.
Brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease can have trouble with:
Everyone suffers certain episodes of forgetfulness from time to time. But memory associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and worsens, which affects the brain. Alzheimer’s patient may:
Alzheimer’s disease causes problems in concentration and thinking. Multitasking becomes more difficult, and it may be very challenging to manage finance tasks. These difficulties may head towards an inability to recognize and deal with numbers.
The capability to make sensible decisions and judgments in everyday life reduces. Also, it may be tough to respond effectively to everyday situations.
Some routine activities that require sequential steps like planning and cooking a meal or playing any favourite game will becomes a struggle as the disease progresses. After a certain time, a person with advanced Alzheimer’s may forget how to perform basic tasks.
Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect behaviours and moods. Some common problems may include:
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder, i.e. the signs and symptoms gradually worsen over time. Alzheimer’s disease is divided into seven stages:
Stage 1: Asymptomatic stage. However, in certain cases there might be an early diagnosis based on a family history of Alzheimer’s.
Stage 2: The initial symptoms appear like forgetfulness and changes in memory
Stage 3: Appearance of mild, physical or mental impairments such as decreased memory and concentration.
Stage 4: This is usually considered as a diagnostic stage of Alzheimer’s disease, but it is still mild. Memory loss and inability to perform daily tasks are common symptoms.
Stage 5: Moderate to severe symptoms, a person requires care from loved ones and caretakers.
Stage 6: Person with Alzheimer’s at this stage may require help with basic tasks such as eating, wearing clothes, bathing, etc.
Stage 7: The most severe and final stage of Alzheimer’s is loss of speech, and loss of facial expression is evident.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood yet. Since it’s a neurodegenerative disease, its fundamental problem is associated with the brain’s proteins that fail to work properly, disrupt the functions of neurons, and release a series of toxic events. Neurons get damaged, loose connections with each other, and eventually die.
The damage most often starts in the region of the brain that controls memory. The loss of neurons spreads in an unpredictable pattern to the other areas of the brain. By the late stage of the disease, the brain shrinks significantly.
Researchers are focused on the role of two proteins in the case of Alzheimer’s disease:
Plaques: Beta-amyloid is a residue of a larger protein. When these fragments cluster together, they appear to have a toxic effect on neurons and disrupt cell-to-cell communication. These clusters form larger deposits known as amyloid plaques.
Tangles: Tau protein play a role in neuron’s internal support and transport system to carry nutrients and other mandatory materials. In this disease, Tau protein changes shape and organize themselves in the structure called neurofibrillary tangles. Tangles disrupt transport and are toxic to brain cells.
Age: Aging is the greatest known factor in Alzheimer’s disease. Though Alzheimer’s is not a part of healthy aging, as an individual grows older, the chances of developing Alzheimer’s increases.
Family history and genetics: Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases if the first-degree relative (parents or siblings) has the disease. Most of the genetic mechanism remains unexplained, and the genetic factors are probably involved.
One of the explained genetic factors is a form of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE). A variation of the gene, APOE e4, somewhat increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Not everyone with such variation of gene develops Alzheimer’s.
Down syndrome: Many people with down syndrome develop the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is likely correlated with having three chromosomes 21 and subsequently three copies of the gene for the protein that leads to the formation of beta-amyloid. Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear 10 to 20 years earlier in people with down syndrome as compared to the general population.
Past head trauma: An individual who had severe head trauma have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Poor sleep patterns: Many research shows that poor sleep patterns, sleep apnea are associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Lifestyle and heart health: Some risk factors of Alzheimer’s are related to heart diseases. These includes:
The above-mentioned factors can be modified by changing lifestyle habits to alter the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Language and memory loss, disrupt judgment, and many other cognitive changes by Alzheimer’s can complicate health conditions. An individual with Alzheimer’s disease may find difficulty in:
As Alzheimer’s progresses to its severe stage, the changes in the brain begin to effect many physical functions like swallowing, chewing, bowel, and bladder control. These effects can raise the vulnerability to additional health problems like:
Alzheimer’s disease is not yet preventable. Although there is a number of lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s, which can be adjusted. Many studies suggest that changes in diet, exercise, and habits are initial steps to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that may cause dementia. Healthy lifestyles that may reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s include the following:
Diagnostic and Pathology Tests Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).
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