Alzheimer’s disease is a gradually progressing disorder that causes brain cells to slowly die. It leads to a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills of a person and hampers his/her ability to function independently. The early signs of this disease can be forgetting recent events or conversations. With the progress of the disease, the affected person will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out even the normal daily tasks. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, however, it can be controlled to some extent with medication and mind activity programmes under the guidance of experts.
One of the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. The afflicted person is usually unable to recall conversations or incidents that have taken place in the recent past. As the diseases progresses behavioural changes become more apparent and gradually the person is likely to lose the ability to perform simple activities like putting on shoes, buttoning up etc. He/she will find it more and more difficult organizing thoughts. A family member or friend is more likely to notice when the symptoms worsen.
Alzheimer’s affects a person’s:
We all have occasional memory lapses, but the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease continues and worsens, affecting the ability to function at work or at home.
People with Alzheimer’s often repeat statements, forget things, appointments or event, misplace things, get lost in familiar places, forget names of family members and everyday objects, have trouble naming objects, expressing thoughts or taking part in conversations.
Thinking and reasoning
Alzheimer’s makes it difficult to concentrate, think, reason and rationalize. Making judgements and taking decisions slowly becomes difficult.
Planning and performing familiar tasks
People with advanced Alzheimer’s often find it difficult to do basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.
Changes in personality and behavior
Behavioral changes are common at progressive stages of the disease. A person suffering from Alzheimer’s is likely to go through:
With loss of reasoning, the ability to calculate or count gets affected first
While a person with Alzheimer’s struggles with basic calculations, losing the ability to handle finances, certain skills like reading or listening to books, telling stories and reminiscing, singing, listening to music, dancing, drawing, or doing crafts are preserved longer. This is probably because these abilities are controlled by parts of the brain that are affected later in the course of the disease.
Can be hereditary, or caused by lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. When the brain proteins fail to function normally, it disrupts the work of brain cells (neurons) and unleashes a series of toxic events. Neurons are damaged, lose connections to each other and eventually die. The loss of neurons spreads to other regions of the brains. In later stages of the disease, the brain shrinks significantly.
Plaques – they are the leftover fragment of a larger protein. They cluster together, and have a toxic effect on neurons and to disrupt cell-to-cell communication.
Tangles – These proteins play a part in a neuron’s internal support and transport system to carry nutrients and other essential materials. In Alzheimer’s disease, they change shape and organize themselves into structures called neurofibrillary tangles and disrupt the transport system and are toxic to cells.
A number of lifestyle risk factors like changes in diet, exercise and habits for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease may also lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia.
Studies have found an association between lifelong involvement in mentally and socially stimulating activities and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease for eg. participating in social events, reading, dancing, playing board games, creating art, playing an instrument, and other activities that require mental and social engagement.
A diagnostic work-up for Alzheimer’s disease would include the following tests:
Physical and neurological exam
The doctor performs a physical exam and assesses the overall neurological health by testing the following:
Blood tests may help to rule out other potential causes of memory loss and confusion, such as a thyroid disorder or vitamin deficiencies.
Mental status and neuropsychological testing
A doctor may conduct a brief mental status test or a more extensive set of tests to assess memory and other thinking skills.
Images of the brain are now used chiefly to pinpoint visible abnormalities related to conditions other than Alzheimer’s disease such as strokes, trauma or tumours that may cause cognitive change. New imaging applications may enable doctors to detect specific brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s.
Imaging of brain structures include the following:
Imaging of disease processes can also be done with positron emission tomography (PET). During a PET scan, a low-level radioactive tracer is injected into the blood stream to reveal a particular feature in the brain. It shows areas of the brain in which nutrients are poorly metabolized, show amyloid deposits in the brain, it measures the burden of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, is only used in research.
Medications suggested by the doctor can help for a time with memory symptoms and other cognitive changes.
Creating a safe and supportive environment
Someone with Alzheimer’s, needs to establish and strength routine habits and minimize memory-demanding tasks can make life much easier.
You can take these steps to support a person’s sense of well-being and continued ability to function:
Certain herbal remedies, vitamins and other supplements are widely promoted as preparations that may support cognitive health or prevent or delay Alzheimer’s.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Healthy lifestyle choices help to promote good overall health and may play a role in maintaining cognitive health.
Regular exercise is an important part of a treatment plan for Alzheimer’s. A daily walk can help to improve mood and maintain the health of joints, muscles and the heart. It can also promote restful sleep and prevent constipation.
People with Alzheimer’s who walking problem may use a stationary bike or participate in chair exercises.
People with Alzheimer’s often forget to eat, lose interest in cooking or eat a healthy combination of foods. They may also forget to drink enough water, leading to dehydration and constipation.
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