World Alzheimer’s Day is observed on the 21st of September every year to raise awareness among people about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Due to the wide prevalence of the condition, it takes place for the entire month of September in some countries.
It presents an opportunity for organizations and individuals to know more about the condition. It also helps people suffering from Alzheimer’s to overcome complications and lead a healthy life.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes loss of memory. While people suffering from this disease can easily recall events that occurred years ago, they have a difficult time remembering recent events. Over time, the person will develop severe memory impairment and lose their ability to carry out everyday work. It is a progressive disorder where the brain cells degenerate and die.
In the advanced stages of the disease, complications arising from memory loss such as malnutrition, infection, or dehydration can also lead to death.
What are the different types of Alzheimer’s disease?
There are two major types of Alzheimer’s:
- Early-onset Alzheimer’s
It happens to people who are below the age of 65 years of age. Mostly, these people are in the 40s and 50s when diagnosed with this disease. Only 5% of people who have Alzheimer’s shall have early-onset. Patients who have Down syndrome possess a higher risk. The early onset of this form is linked with a defect in the person’s DNA, specifically the chromosome 14.
- Late-onset Alzheimer’s
It is a kind of disease that happens to people who are 65 years or above. It might or might not run in families. The researchers till now, have not found a specific gene, which causes it. There is no particular reason why some people have it and why others do not have.
FAD or Familial Alzheimer’s disease is a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease which is passed down entirely through genes, being inherited from a parent. In the affected families, the members of a minimum of two generations have this disease. It accounts for less than one percent of Alzheimer’s.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
People who have Alzheimer’s disease are older; however, the condition is not a normal part of aging. The scientists do not know why some people get this disease and why some do not. However, the causes come from two kinds of nerve damage:
- Protein deposits known as beta-amyloid plaques that build up in brains
- Nerve cells form tangles, known as neurofibrillary tangles.
If you have parents or siblings with Alzheimer’s, you are at a higher risk of developing the disease. People with Down syndrome disorder get this disease early . High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels may increase your risk too.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Loss of memory is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. An early indication of the disease involves difficulty in remembering recent conversations and events.
Most people experience occasional memory lapses, but that does not indicate that they have Alzheimer’s. People who have Alzheimer’s may:
- Forget appointments, conversations, or events
- Repeat the same questions and statements multiple times
- Get lost in familiar locations
- Misplace possessions routinely
- Have trouble expressing thoughts or take part in conversations
- Have issues in planning and executing familiar tasks
Routine activities or those requiring proper planning such as playing a mind-game or cooking a meal becomes difficult as the disease progresses. Gradually, people at an advanced stage of the illness forget to perform basic tasks like bathing and dressing.
Changes in behavior and personality
With the progress of the disease, the mood and behavior of the person get affected to a great extent. This may include –
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Loss of inhibitions
- Aggressiveness and Irritability
Even as the disease worsens, many important skills like drawing, dancing, craftwork, singing, listening to music, etc. are forgotten. This gets affected at an advanced stage of the disease.
What are some complications associated with Alzheimer’s?
Impaired judgment, loss of memory and language, and cognitive changes from Alzheimer’s may create several complications such as defects in–
- Reporting symptoms of other illness
- Communicating any pain or discomfort
- Following any prescribed treatment
- Conveying any medication side effects
People suffering from the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s may experience difficulty in swallowing, balancing, controlling the bladder, and bowel movements. These can lead to more adverse health problems like:
- Pneumonia or other infections
- Inhaling liquid or food into the lungs
- Dehydration and malnutrition
What are the risk factors of the disease?
If you fall in the following categories, you are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease –
- With an increase in age, your chances of getting Alzheimer’s will be higher
- If you had a family history of Alzheimer’s
- You have suffered a severe head trauma
- Women are more prone to this disease than men
- If you are suffering from Down syndrome
- You are or were suffering from mild cognitive impairment
- You have poor sleeping patterns
What are the available treatment options?
The present treatment of Alzheimer’s improves the problems of reasoning and thinking and the symptoms of memory loss. The treatments enhance the performance of chemicals in the brain carrying information from one cell to another. These treatments, however, do not stop the death and decline of brain cells. The disease continuously progresses as more cells die.
The experts are hopeful that Alzheimer’s treatments are being developed that can either stop or delay its progression. An in-depth understanding of the way the disease disrupts the functioning of the brain has resulted in its treatment.
Future treatments include using several medications, just like how cancer and AIDS/HIV are treated by more than one drug.
- Drugs like monoclonal antibodies can prevent beta-amyloid from clumping into plaques.
- Production blockers are therapies that might minimize the quantity of formation of beta-amyloid in the brain.
Researchers are also looking at ways of preventing tau from forming tangles. Tau vaccines and Tau aggregation inhibitors are present in the clinical trials. The Tau proteins are misfolded and abnormally shaped in the brains of the people with Alzheimer’s disease. Normal tau protein forms part of a structure known as microtubule. As a part of its functions, microtubule help transport nutrients including other important substances from one part of the nerve cell to another.
When to see a doctor?
Since it is difficult to know the actual reason behind memory loss, whether it is a sign of normal aging or early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, it is better to take medical help. Some of the indications that you may have Alzheimer’s include –
- Loss of Memory
- Difficulty in performing daily tasks
- Getting confused with place and time
- Having trouble with planning and problem solving
- Getting frustrated with conversations
- Trouble in reading, judging color, and distance
- Keeping things in unusual places
- Cutting off social ties
- Experiencing mood swings
Sometimes these symptoms individually might be a result of some other health complications, but if you experience multiple problems together, it can be Alzheimer’s. Your doctor will evaluate your physical condition by conducting mental status tests like assessment of thinking skills, memory, and problem solving.
Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals.
Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.
How to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease?
While Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented there are certain risk factors that can be modified .
Research studies reveal that following proper exercise, diet, and healthy habits may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. So, you should
- Exercise regularly
- Take up adequate treatment to control high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure
- Consume fresh products, low-saturated-fat diet, and healthy oils
- Quit smoking
Also, participating in social events, dancing, playing board games, playing an instrument, reading, and similar other social and mental activities are known to reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
The bottom line
World Alzheimer’s Day is observed to create awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common reason for dementia in which the person gradually loses his behavioral, social, and thinking skills. While there is no permanent cure, certain medications are known to alter the disease process by decreasing the decline rate and improving the symptoms.
Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals.
Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.