What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurologic ailment that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and the death of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent form of dementia, defined as a progressive loss of cognitive, behavioral, and social abilities that impair a person’s capacity to operate independently.
Alzheimer’s disease affects around 5.8 million people in the United States aged 65 and over. Eighty percent of them are 75 years old or older. Alzheimer’s disease is expected to affect 60 percent to 70 percent of the approximately 50 million individuals globally who have dementia.
Medications may help or reduce the course of symptoms temporarily. These medicines can occasionally assist persons with Alzheimer’s disease preserve their independence and optimizing their function. People with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers can benefit from a variety of programs and services.
Alzheimer’s disease has no cure or therapy that affects the disease process in the brain. Complications from significant loss of brain function, such as dehydration, starvation, or infection, can lead to mortality in the advanced stages of the condition.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by memory loss. The inability to recall recent events or discussions is one of the first indicators. Memory problems intensify as the disease develops, and additional symptoms emerge.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may initially notice that they are having trouble recalling things and organizing their thoughts. It’s possible that a family member or friend will note how the symptoms increase.
Alzheimer’s disease causes changes in the brain that cause problems with:
Everyone suffers memory lapses now and again, but Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss that continues and worsens, impairing one’s ability to perform at work or at home.
Alzheimer’s patients may:
- Repeat statements and questions over and over
- Forget conversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later
- Routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations
- Get lost in familiar places
- Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects
- Have trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or take part in conversations
Thinking and reasoning
Alzheimer’s disease impairs concentration and reasoning, particularly when it comes to abstract notions like numbers.
Multitasking is particularly tough, and managing funds, balancing checkbooks, and paying payments on time may be difficult. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may eventually lose the ability to identify and cope with numbers.
Making judgments and decisions
Alzheimer’s disease impairs one’s capacity to make sound assessments and decisions in everyday settings. A person may, for example, make bad or unusual decisions in social encounters or dress inappropriately for the weather. It may be more difficult to respond efficiently to ordinary concerns such as a stove that is burning or unexpected driving scenarios.
Planning and performing familiar tasks
As the condition develops, simple tasks that involve sequential processes, such as planning and making a meal or playing a favorite game, become difficult. People with severe Alzheimer’s disease frequently lose their ability to do simple actions such as dressing and washing.
Changes in personality and behavior
Moods and behaviors can be affected by Alzheimer’s disease-related brain alterations. The following are examples of potential issues:
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Distrust in others
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Loss of inhibitions
- Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen
Alzheimer’s disease Causes
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease whose specific causes are unknown. However, at a fundamental level, brain proteins malfunction, disrupting the operation of brain cells (neurons) and triggering a cascade of harmful events. Neurons become injured, lose their connections, and finally die.
Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by a mix of genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors that impact the brain over time in most people, according to scientists.
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by certain genetic abnormalities that nearly guarantee a person will get the disease in less than 1% of cases. The illness frequently appears in middle age as a result of these infrequent events.
The involvement of two proteins is being studied by researchers seeking to figure out what causes Alzheimer’s disease:
Plaques. A portion of a bigger protein, beta-amyloid, is found in the brain. These pieces appear to have a deleterious impact on neurons and impair cell-to-cell transmission when they cluster together. These clusters combine to produce amyloid plaques, which include more cellular debris.
Tangles. Tau proteins are involved in the movement of nutrients and other critical components within a neuron’s internal support and transport system. Tau proteins alter the form and assemble themselves into aggregates called neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer’s disease. The tangles are harmful to cells and impair the transport mechanism.
Alzheimer Risk factors
Age: The most well-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is growing older. Alzheimer’s disease is not a natural part of aging, although it does raise your chances of having it as you get older.
According to one research, four new diagnoses per 1,000 persons aged 65 to 74, 32 new diagnoses per 1,000 people aged 75 to 84, and 76 new diagnoses per 1,000 people aged 85 and beyond were made each year.
Family history and genetics: If a first-degree family, such as a parent or brother, has Alzheimer’s, your chances of having the illness are somewhat greater. The majority of genetic pathways behind Alzheimer’s disease in families are yet unknown, and the genetic components are likely to be complicated.
A variant of the apolipoprotein E gene is one more well-understood genetic component (APOE). The gene APOE e4 has a variant that raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. An APOE e4 allele is carried by around 25% to 30% of the population, however not everyone with this variant of the gene gets the illness.
Scientists have discovered three unusual alterations (mutations) in three genes that nearly ensure Alzheimer’s disease in everyone who inherits one of them. However, these mutations are found in less than 1% of Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s disease affects many persons with Down syndrome. This is most likely due to having three copies of chromosome 21 — and so three copies of the gene for the protein that causes beta-amyloid to form. Alzheimer’s signs and symptoms emerge 10 to 20 years earlier in persons with Down syndrome than in the general population.
Although there appears to be a minimal risk difference between men and women, women are more likely to get the disease since they live longer than males.
Mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is defined as a deterioration in memory or other thinking skills that is more than usual for a person’s age but does not preclude a person from functioning in social or professional situations.
MCI patients are at a higher risk of getting dementia. When memory loss is the major symptom of MCI, the illness is more likely to proceed to dementia, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. When you’re diagnosed with MCI, you’ll want to focus more on making healthy lifestyle changes, devising ways to compensate for memory loss, and arranging regular medical appointments to check your symptoms.
People who have had a serious head injury are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) increases the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in adults aged 50 and older, according to many big studies. People with more severe and multiple TBIs are at a higher risk. According to some research, the risk is highest in the first six months to two years following a TBI.
Air pollution particles have been shown in animal studies to hasten the deterioration of the neurological system. Human studies have also indicated that exposure to air pollution, notably from automobile exhaust and wood burning, is linked to a higher incidence of dementia.
Excessive alcohol consumption
Drinking a lot of alcohol has been linked to brain alterations for a long time. Alcohol use problems have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia, according to several significant studies and reviews.
Poor sleep patterns
Poor sleep patterns, such as difficulties falling asleep or remaining asleep, have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in studies.
Lifestyle and heart health
The same risk factors linked to heart disease have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research. These are some of them:
- Lack of exercise
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Poorly controlled type 2 diabetes
Alzheimer’s disease causes memory and language loss, decreased judgment, and other cognitive impairments that can make treating other illnesses more difficult. Alzheimer’s disease patients may be unable to:
- Communicate that he or she is experiencing pain
- Explain symptoms of another illness
- Follow a prescribed treatment plan
- Explain medication side effects
As Alzheimer’s disease develops to its last stages, bodily functions such as swallowing, balance, and bowel and bladder control begin to be affected. These side effects might make you more vulnerable to other health issues, such as:
- Inhaling food or liquid into the lungs (aspiration)
- Flu, pneumonia and other infections
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Dental problems such as mouth sores or tooth decay
Alzheimer’s disease is not a disease that can be avoided. A variety of lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, may be altered. Evidence shows that modifications in food, activity, and lifestyle, which have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-causing conditions. The following are some heart-healthy lifestyle behaviors that may help to minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a diet of fresh produce, healthy oils and foods low in saturated fat such as a Mediterranean diet
- Following treatment guidelines to manage high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol
- Asking your doctor for help to quit smoking if you smoke