After every four seconds, someone is being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the most common cause of dementia and affects 40 million people worldwide. But how it develops in such a larger number of people and how one can delay its onset. this all will be covered in this article.
Alzheimer’s disease is a kind of dementia that progresses over time. Dementia is a blanket word that refers to a variety of illnesses caused by brain injuries or diseases that impair memory, thinking, and behavior. These alterations obstruct ordinary life.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for between 60% and 80% of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The majority of persons with the condition are diagnosed beyond the age of 65. If this disease is detected before that period, it is referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
HOW ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE BEGINS
Dr. Alois Alzheimer’s, a German psychiatrist was the first one to describe the symptoms in 1901 when he noticed them in a patient who was admitted to hospital with some peculiar behaviors like sleeping difficulties, dramatic mood changes, weakened memory, and increasing confusion. When the patient passed away, he was able to do the autopsy and found some different irregularities in the brain structure.
What he found beneath the microscope were visible differences in brain tissue in the form of misfolded proteins called plaques and tangles. These plaques and tangles work together to break down the brains’ structure. Plaques are formed when the fatty membrane surrounding the nerve cells gets sliced up by particular enzymes which results in beta-amyloid proteins. These proteins are sticky in nature and have the ability to clump together forming plaques. When a plaque is formed they block signaling between the cells and also triggers the immune reaction also progressing to the destruction of an abnormal nerve cell.
In Alzheimer’s, the neurofibrillary proteins are built with a special protein named tau protein. Tau protein ensures that the network of cells (those transport nutrients and other essential molecules) are straight and that molecules may readily flow through them. However, in Alzheimer’s disease, these straight proteins disfigure into twisted strands or tangles which leads to the restriction of nutrients reaching the cell causing cell death. This all starts in the hippocampus, where short-term memories are made. Changes in the levels of this protein can occur around 15 years before the onset of symptoms. Then these proteins proceed to target other sections of the brain by producing distinct signal-related alterations which cause different stages of the illness.
The Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s generally affects adults over 65. It can develop in persons in their 40s or 50s. This is called early-onset Alzheimer’s. This kind of Alzheimer’s affects 5% of those with the disease. Early Alzheimer’s symptoms include mild memory loss, difficulty focusing, and finishing tasks. One may lose track of time and language. Mild visual issues, including difficulties judging distances, can arise.
ALZHEIMER’S SYMPTOMS & SIGNS
In 2020, almost 5.8 million were affected by Alzheimer’s and by 2060, this figure is expected to nearly reach to 14 million.
Alzheimer’s disease has a significant impact on cognitive performance, even if the disease initially advances gradually. The symptoms progressively increase over time, and their severity varies according to the illness’s stage. Alzheimer’s appears with a variety of symptoms that differ from person to person. Memory issues are frequently one of the earliest indicators of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline. Some common symptoms are mentioned below;
- Loss of memory (especially that which affects day-to-day life, such as inability to retain new information or keep track of appointments).
- Difficulty completing routine activities, such as switching on the television or turning on the oven.
- Difficulty in problem-solving
- Having difficulty with the speech or writing
- Disorientation or confusion regarding time or location
- Decreased judgment
- Difficulty following conversations
- Changes to one’s mood, temperament, or behavior (e.g. apathy, depression, social withdrawal, irritability, aggression, distrust, delusions, wandering, etc.)
Dementia is just a symptom of Alzheimer’s and can be because of many reasons. To have a detailed comparison of both, and for better learning of the term dementia here.
RISK FACTORS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 90 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s disease do not exhibit any symptoms until they are over 60 years old.
Researchers are still unsure about the exact causation of Alzheimer’s disease. There is unlikely to be a single reason, but rather a combination of circumstances that influence each individual differentially.
- Age. The most well-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is advanced age.
- Genetics & Family History. Genetics may play a significant impact. Researchers are particularly interested in one gene. The apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene has been associated with the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms in older persons.
- Gender. Gender is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease since around two-thirds 2/3 of those diagnosed with the disease are female
- Head Injuries. Certain types of head injuries (severe injuries, those experienced before the age of 55, and repeated moderate injuries) may raise the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s later in life.
- Other Lifestyle Factors. Various vascular health issues (such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and high cholesterol) appear to enhance an individual’s chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s.
Possessing one or more of these risk factors does not automatically preclude you from developing Alzheimer’s disease. It only increases your chance.
STAGES AND SEVERITY OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
|1.No Impairment||At this time, the individual will exhibit no symptoms, although testing may indicate a problem.|
|2. Very Mild Decline||Other people may notice little behavioral changes, yet your loved one will remain autonomous|
|3. Mild Decline||Other observing sees a greater shift in their reasoning and reasoning abilities. They may have difficulty forming plans and frequently repeat themselves. Additionally, they may have difficulty recalling recent events.|
|4. Moderate Decline||Recent events are clouded in memory; trouble completing complicated activities and managing personal affairs; maybe delusory or withdrawal from family. Family and friends are aware of the signs.|
|5. Moderately Severe Decline||Significant memory gaps, including significant life events; require assistance with everyday tasks such as clothing and food preparation; is unable to manage personal matters.|
|6. Severe Decline||Cannot care for oneself; begins to forget family members’ names; has trouble completing duties; speech is impacted; incontinence, depression, agitation, and delusions may be present.|
|7. Very Severe Decline||Full-time care is required; speech loss occurs; all daily tasks, including eating, bathing, and toileting, require assistance; and the individual may lose the ability to walk.|
The following is the typical progression of this disease:
|Stage||Average time frame|
|Mild, or early stage||2 to 4 years|
|Moderate, or middle stage||2 to 10 years|
|Severe, or late-stage||1 to 3 years|
DIAGNOSIS OF ALZHEIMER’S
There’s no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease. However, the doctor will likely do several tests to determine a diagnosis. These can be mental, physical, neurological, and imaging tests.
- A doctor may begin with a mental state examination. This can aid them in assessing the short- and long-term memory, as well as orientation to place and time.
- Following that, they’re likely to undertake a physical examination. For instance, they may take the blood pressure, pulse rate, and temperature. In some instances, they may take urine, genetic, or blood samples for laboratory testing.
- Additionally, the doctor may do a neurological exam to rule out other possible diseases, such as urgent medical problems like infection or stroke. They will assess reflexes, muscular tone, and speech throughout this examination.
- The doctor may prescribe brain imaging investigations. These examinations will generate images of the brain, like CT, MRI, and PET scans.
Alzheimer’s disease has no known cure, however, there are therapies available that can delay its course. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), you are probably aware that there is currently no treatment. However, FDA-approved drugs can help to prevent or delay the onset of cognitive (thought-related) AD symptoms. Memory loss and difficulty thinking are among these symptoms. Continue reading to learn about existing medications and those under development.
Listed below are popular medicines used to prevent or reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. The efficacy of these medications varies by individual. All of these medicines lose efficacy over time as Alzheimer’s progresses.
- Donepezil is used to reduce the progress of Alzheimer’s symptoms in mild, moderate, and severe cases
- Memantine is used to prevent or postpone the onset of symptoms associated with moderate to severe AD. It is available in the form of a tablet, an extended-release capsule, and an oral solution.
- Galantamine This medicine is used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It is available as a pill, capsule, or oral solution (liquid).
- Rivastigmine This medicine is used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It is a transdermal patch or a pill.
- Memantine extended-release and donepezil This treatment may be prescribed to patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.
To date, it has been shown that drugs have only a limited influence on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease once symptoms begin to manifest. The focus of research has mainly switched to avoiding symptoms from occurring in the first place.
Among the other therapies for Alzheimer’s disease is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which can help people manage their behavioral symptoms and feel more comfortable in their own skin.
PREVENTION OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
- Lower The Risk Of Cardiovascular Conditions. Autopsy investigations have revealed that up to 80% percent of patients with Alzheimer’s disease also had a cardiovascular illness. If you improve your cardiovascular health, you may be able to lower your chance of getting these issues – and more significant problems such as strokes and heart attacks.
- Have a Healthy Diet. According to studies, following a Mediterranean diet may lower the overall chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease. This diet has less red meat and places an emphasis on vegetables including fish, nuts, olive oil, and other healthy fats. Avoid heavy carbs and fatty foods to maintain weight.
- Use Antixodants Rich foods. Other research suggests that antioxidants may have an effect on the changes that occur in the brain as a result of aging. Researchers have discovered that berries can help to enhance cognitive performance. Berries like Cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries have proven their benefit in this regard. Curcumin has been demonstrated to efficiently preserve the normal structure and function of brain arteries, and synapses, lower risk factors for chronic illnesses and minimize Alzheimer’s disease risk.
- Keep the Brain Active. An active brain may help to minimize the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The following are examples of activities that keep the brain active are solving a puzzle, playing brain training games, listening to the radio, etc.
- Exercise is the Key. There is evidence that 30 minutes of exercise every day is significant for Alzheimer’s disease prevention. An 8-year research of 6,000 women aged 65 and older explored the relationship between mental performance and physical exercise. It revealed that women who were more active were less likely to experience a deterioration in mental skills than women who were less active. Aerobic activity has also been proven very much beneficial for the symptoms of diseases in a 6-month long study.
- Lower Homocysteiene Levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that makes up a protein. It’s naturally in the blood. Recent research indicates that having higher than average homocysteine levels in the blood is a risk factor for developing the condition. According to this study, a 5% rise in plasma homocysteine elevated the risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%. Homocysteine levels are reduced by folate (folic acid), as well as other B vitamins (B-6 and B-12). So it is recommended to add folate source foods in diet including spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and beets in your diet.
- Be More Social. According to compelling data, seniors who spend most of their time in their close home area are nearly twice as likely to acquire AD as those who travel more frequently. Social engagement reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- Cease the Alcohol and Smoking Habits. Consumption of alcoholic beverages was shown to be substantially associated with the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It was also proven in research quitting smoking might significantly delay the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease up to 50% slower. While not everyone who smokes develops dementia, it is believed that quitting smoking is healthier for human health. Similarly, drinking alcohol into the recommended amount in a day is better than overdosing on it. Learn more about alcohol’s effect on the body in this article here.
If you have a family member or friend who has Alzheimer’s disease, you may want to consider being a caregiver. This is full-time work that is often difficult but maybe quite rewarding in the long run. The majority of individuals who are living with Alzheimer’s disease are now being cared for at home by family members. Caregiving may have both positive and negative effects on the person who is being cared for, as well as on the carer. It may provide personal pleasure to the caretaker, such as the gratification that comes from assisting a family member or friend, and it may also result in the development of new skills and the strengthening of family ties.
It takes a tremendous amount of effort to care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. As a caregiver, one will feel a wide range of emotions. They require assistance and support, as well as time away from the responsibilities. People can benefit from support groups by learning about and exchanging best practices and ideas for coping with challenging situations. Caregivers must prioritize their own health as well as the health of the person they are caring for.