Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible disease of the brain that leads to memory loss, affects thinking ability and in advanced stages interferes with the ability to carry out simple day to day tasks.
1 . What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
Although, the disease mostly affects people in their old age, but Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of ageing process. Researchers are not sure sure why some people get it and others don’t. But they have found that the symptoms are caused by two forms of nerve damage
-Nerve cells get tangles, called neurofibrillary tangles.
-Protein deposits called beta-amyloid plaques build up in the brain.
But why nerves get damaged in people with Alzheimer’s is still not fully understood.
2 . What Are The Symptoms?
Initially, people start complaining about having difficulty in remembering recent events while as they may have no problems in recalling old events
With time, more symptoms start appearing. These include:
-Difficulty in focusing
-Trouble performing ordinary activities
-Extreme mood swings: like bouts of anger or anxiety
-Getting lost easily and difficulty in communicating
In advanced stages of the disease, people with Alzheimer’s might forget their immediate family members. They may even forget how to feed themselves or how to use a toilet.
3 . Are There Any Risk Factors?
Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.
-Risk factors include people above 65 years, women,family history of the disease, people with Down syndrome and People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
-Studies suggest that same factors that put you at risk of heart disease also may increase the chance that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s. These include sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking ,high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
4 . How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimer’s disease. These include:
-Detailed medical history.
-Physical and neurological examination.
-Blood tests to rule out other causes of memory loss like thyroid disorders or vitamin deficiencies.
-Mental status and neuro-psychological testing.
-Brain imaging like Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Computerized tomography (CT) and Positron emission tomography (PET).
5 . What Is The Treatment?
Current treatment modalities are limited provide only modest improvement in the patient’s symptoms. Treatment revolves around drug therapy and supportive therapy.
Two types of drugs are currently used to treat cognitive symptoms:
-Cholinesterase inhibitors which work by increasing cell-to-cell communication by providing a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) that is depleted in the brain by Alzheimer’s disease.
-Memantine. This drug works in another brain cell communication network and slows the progression of symptoms with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.
-Sometimes other medications such as antidepressants are used to help control the behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease require constant support, encouragement and supervision. The aim is to make surroundings easier and simpler to remember for patients with Alzheimer’s.
-In addition to medicines, doctors recommend exercise to promote restful sleep and prevent constipation.
-Patients with Alzheimer’s should always carry identification or wear a medical alert bracelet if she or he walks unaccompanied.
-People with Alzheimer’s may forget to eat, lose interest in preparing meals or not eat a healthy combination of foods.
-Family members need to ensure that these patients get adequate nutrition and drink enough fluids throughout the day
-The family members need to work closely with the doctor, physiotherapist and dietitian to create a treatment plan that’s right for the patient.
6 . Can Alzheimer’s Be Prevented?
Since the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, there’s no way to prevent the condition. Studies show that heart diseases increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease .By reducing your risk of heart diseases you may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Improve your heart heath by these simple steps:
-Restrict alcohol intake.
-Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including 4-5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
-Exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.
-Make sure your blood pressure is checked and controlled through regular health tests.
-If you have diabetes, make sure you keep to the diet and take your medication
-Stay mentally active. Studies suggest that rates of dementia are lower in people who remain as mentally, physically and socially active as possible throughout their lives, as well as among those who enjoy a wide range of different activities and hobbies.
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So, if you or anyone in your family is experiencing problems with memory or difficulty remembering things on a daily basis, it is always a good idea to go for a medical check up. Stay Aware, Stay healthy!