What you need to know
Alzheimer’s is a disease may of us experience. We might have seen a loved one affected or may be struggling with the onset of the condition ourselves. Despite the initial conclusion that Alzheimer’s is simply memory loss, there is much more to the disease.
We delve into what you need to know about Alzheimer’s from symptoms and causes, to treatment and prevention.
There are 10 symptoms or warning signs to Alzheimer’s. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the below, please consult your regular doctor.
- Memory loss – Probably the primary and most obvious sign of Alzheimer’s Disease. This can include forgetting recently learned information or conversations and important dates (such as birthdays).
- Challenges with problem solving – A key sign of Alzheimer’s is experiencing difficulty concentrating. This can vary from struggling to focus on basic problem-solving skills (like paying bills) to following instructions (like following recipes).
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks – Familiar tasks people with Alzheimer’s can begin to struggle with include driving to frequently visited locations, passcode combinations and simple jobs at work.
- Confusion of day, time, place – Not only can people with Alzheimer’s begin to forget the day of the week, date or month, they can also question where they are and how they got there. This can also cause the person to feel afraid, particularly if they are surrounded by strangers.
- Trouble comprehending visuals and text -This symptom is not as common or well known, though some people affected by Alzheimer’s also have vision problems. This can lead to difficulty reading, observing colour and determining distance.
- Speech problems -People with Alzheimer’s often have trouble both following and joining conversations. They may often repeat themselves, pause mid conversation and mispronounce words.
- Misplacing items – Another common sign is misplacing items and/or being unable to retrace steps to find any missing items. Along with this, sufferers can also become easily frustrated and accuse others of stealing.
- Poor judgement – An obvious example of poor judgement can involve money – for instance, handing over more money than necessary for purchases or giving large sums to telemarketers.
- Disinterest in social activities – If you notice a loved one slowly losing interest in social interaction, usual hobbies or even work, this could be a sign of Alzheimer’s. Desire to steer away from social activities can be brought on by not remembering how to complete hobbies (like crosswords, puzzles etc.).
- Mood changes -Feelings of confusion, suspicion, depression, fear and even anxiety are also indicators.
Though there hasn’t been an exact cause of Alzheimer’s identified, those with the disease have been found to have abnormal clumps of protein and/or bundles of protein fibres in their brain. These progressively destroy nerve cells and can cause damage to spread to other areas of the brain. Two areas of the brain that can be impacted include the grey matter and the hippocampus.
The grey matter is responsible for processing thoughts, which is why deterioration in brain activity can lead to poor judgement and trouble problem solving. The hippocampus is responsible for memory.
Alzheimer’s can be inherited (though the risk is only marginally higher than those with no family history). In this instance, signs of the disease can develop at an earlier age between 35 to 60 years of age.
Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s. With this being said, there are medications available to delay the condition’s progression.
Before considering any of the above medicines, you must consult with a doctor. This is particularly important as there are many factors, including the severity of the disease, that can affect the decision of what medicines to take and when.
For those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine boost levels of a brain chemical, called acetylcholine, that helps memory. Like any medication, there are potential side effects including:
There is no exact prevention for Alzheimer’s. Keeping your mind active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are always paramount in the fight against disease.
- Regular exercise
- Social engagement
- Healthy diet
- Mental stimulation
- Quality sleep
- Stress management.