Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease- Prevention, Diagnosis, and Care
In general, people think that Alzheimer’s Disease is all about loss of memory and dementia. However, that is not the case. It’s true that Alzheimer’s starts with dementia but can lead to speech disabilities and loss of the ability to comprehend the surroundings and situations. Alzheimer’s does not have a cure, and people diagnosed with this disease require a lot of care for its management. REAN Foundation has been at the forefront, making several efforts to use digital technology for the optimum management of Alzheimer’s in patients.
A substantial amount of research is underway globally to find a cure for AD, along with understanding its aspects. However, until such time when there is a cure for AD, its management is the only way out.
Alzheimer's Development and Stages of Progression
A person with Alzheimer's loses nerve cells and brain tissues. With time, the brain starts shrinking thereby affecting almost all its functions.
Alzheimer’s starts with disorientation, emotional instability, intensifying confusion regarding incidents, place, and time. It may also lead to suspicions and doubts about people along with dementia and substantial behavioural changes.
The disease progresses in three stages.
In early Alzheimer's, a person can function independently. They can drive, work, and socialise. Despite this, the person may feel like he or she is forgetting familiar words or everyday objects.
In Middle-stage Alzheimer's, dementia symptoms are worse. The person may get confused, frustrated, or angry and behave in strange ways such as refuse to bathe. Brain damage can make it difficult to express thoughts and complete tasks without help.
In late-stage Alzheimer's, dementia is severe. As memory and cognitive skills decline, personality changes may occur, requiring extensive care. Since Alzheimer's affects each person differently, symptoms and progression may vary. Alzheimer's patients live four to eight years on average after diagnosis, but some live for over 20 years, depending on various factors.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Symptoms and Signs
Being aware of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s is crucial in its management. It can help in early diagnosis and effective management. Here are some of the common symptoms:
- Once-easy tasks are now difficult
- Problem-solving difficulties
- Mood or personality changes; social withdrawal
- Written or spoken communication issues
- Places, people, and events confusion
- Visual changes, image confusion
Memory impairments worsen as the disease progresses. Alzheimer's patients may notice memory and thought problems at first. A relative or friend may notice worsening symptoms. In such a situation, getting medical help at the earliest is essential.
Also Read: Age-Related Vision Disorders & Preventive Eye Care for Seniors
Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
Alzheimer's isn't easily diagnosed. Complete medical exam is required for diagnosis. Several factors have to be taken into account for the purposes of diagnosis. Some of these factors are described below:
- Family health history
- A neurological exam to test memory, thinking, functional abilities, and behaviour
- Memory and thinking tests to diagnose brain and mental health disorders
- Blood examination (to rule out other possible causes of symptoms)
- Brain MRI, CT, and PET scans
Alzheimer’s Disease Causes and Risk Factors
While the actual and accurate reasons that cause Alzheimer’s Disease are not yet known, large-scale, worldwide research is being done for the purposes of ascertaining its causes. However, after significant research we are now aware of the most prominent risk factors that may cause Alzheimer’s Disease. Some of them have been listed below:
- Age is the best-known risk factor. Alzheimer's patients are mostly over 65.
- A family history of Alzheimer's increases an individual's risk.
- Uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes or hypertension, mild cognitive impairment, and traumatic brain injury are also risk factors.
- Research indicates that education, diet, and environment might play a role too.
- Several gene variants increase the risk of Alzheimer's. The APOE-e4 gene is the most common Alzheimer's risk gene. Athletes and combat veterans who sustain repeated brain injuries are also more prone to be affected with dementia and thinking problems.
Seeking Help After Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
As Alzheimer's progresses, brain damage cannot be slowed or stopped. Some medications to cure dementia can temporarily improve symptoms. These drugs increase the number of neurotransmitters present in the brain. There is a lot of research underway to understand Alzheimer's and progressive dementia better. Dozens of therapies and pharmacologic treatments focus on stopping brain cell death resulting from Alzheimer’s. Support systems and non-pharmacologic behavioural interventions can improve dementia patients' and caregivers' quality of life. When it comes to the management of Alzheimer’s Disease, the following facts need to be kept in mind:
- Coexisting conditions treatment
- Health care coordination
- Activities to boost mood
- Interventions (to help with common changes, such as aggression, sleep issues and agitation)
- Disease education
- Support-team building
Prevention/ Management Related to Alzheimer’s Disease
Researchers worldwide are looking for ways to stop Alzheimer's on it’s tracks. While there is no definitive answer yet, research shows we can reduce the risk of falling prey to it. Several steps can lower your risk of Alzheimer's. Some of them are listed below. Before making lifestyle changes, consult your doctor.
Nutrition: Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, nuts, olive oil, healthy fats, antioxidants like berries, turmeric may reduce AD risk. Mental fitness is another crucial factor in decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Activities such as listening to the radio, newspaper-reading, puzzle-solving and going to interesting places such as museums can stimulate the brain making it more active.
Social engagement: Seniors who spend most of their time at home are twice as likely to develop AD as those who travel. So, travelling and keeping your brain active will always be helpful in the overall scheme of things.
Exercises: Aerobic exercise improves psychological and behavioural symptoms in AD patients. 30 minutes of daily exercise may prevent Alzheimer's. At the same time, people must quit smoking because it increases AD and dementia risk. High homocysteine is a risk factor for AD, according to recent studies. Folate (folic acid) and B vitamins (B-6 and B-12) lower homocysteine levels.
REAN's Digital Platforms To Improve Care
REAN HealthGuru App, the smart digital platform from REAN Foundation can help augment Alzheimer’s disease by combining it with digital technology. In the absence of a pharmaceutical cure, REAN foundation develops innovative solutions to improve the quality of life for those affected with Alzheimer's and their families.
Physical activity and diet may help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer's Disease, though research isn't conclusive. Many of these lifestyle changes lower the risk of Alzheimer's-related diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Healthy lifestyle choices have few downsides and many benefits, including brain protection.
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