What is Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior, including memory loss, confusion, trouble with everyday tasks, and decisions and gets worse with time.
During the AD, the brain shrinks and the number of nerve fibers and a number of some chemicals that help to send messages between brain cells gradually reduces. Also, tiny deposits or "plaques" form throughout the brain.
Alzheimer's or Dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome or collection of symptoms that impact memory, the performance of daily activities, and communication abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Dementia is usually connected with 4 A's:
- amnesia (memory problem)
- aphasia (language problem)
- agnosia (cognitive problem, inability with operation with common tools like pens or cups or toothbrushes)
- apraxia (coordination problem).
Many people with dementia are not aware that they have dementia. Unexplained falls or unexplained weight loss may be the first indication. Dementia usually affects older people.
Late and early onset
There are two main types of Alzheimer's.
- Early-onset Alzheimer's happens to those under 65, sometimes even to those who are 40. Only 5% of all people with Alzheimer's have early-onset. It is linked to a defect in a specific part of a person’s DNA known as chromosome 14.
- But the most common is Late-onset Alzheimer's. It may or may not run in families. The risk of developing late-onset AD is connected to common variants in two genes.
Stages of Alzheimers'
They usually talk about seven main stages of Alzheimer's.
- Stage 1: No Impairment. No sympthom are evident.
- Stage 2: Very Mild Decline. A person may notice minor memory problems or unexpectable falling.
- Stage 3: Mild Decline. The family members of the senior may begin to notice memory and cognitive problems. The doctors are able to detect cognitive function impairing via test. Those patients have troubles with finding words and things.
- Stage 4: Moderate Decline. Problems with short-term and long-term memories, basic arithmetic.
- Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline. Memories problems are more significant, patients sometimes cannot dress appropriately.
- Stage 6: Severe Decline. Patients have major personality changes and need constant supervision. Patients are not able to remember who they are or recognize their friends or family members. Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Stages 7: Very Severe Decline. Patients lose the ability to respond to their environment or communicate, sometimes even the ability to swallow.
First signs of Alzheimer's disease
According to the Alzheimer's association the first signs of disease are following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
Why does Alzheimer's happen?
The cause of AD is not entirely known but is thought to include both genetic and environmental factors. Genetics determine partially the risk of developing AD.
Cognitive stimulation and regular physical activity are thought to slow down the progression of AD. New studies said the more regularly doing of word puzzles linked to the better brain function in later life.
Is there a treatment?
Currently, there is no cure for AD, but drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. They include
- medications for depression
- medications for memory loss
- medications for sleep changes
- medications for behavioral changes (antipsychotics)
Should I get tested?
You may be interested in knowing your Alzheimer's genetics risk, especially if this disease is running in your family.
But since for now, there is no clear way how to prevent Alzheimer's, we understand that you might not want to know your predisposition factor for this disease. Just check on the "I don't want to receive my results for Alzheimer's" checkbox and your Health Report won't have the results for Alzheimer's Disease.