Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia that targets the brain. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s damages a person’s mental ability and can cause symptoms such as memory loss in adults of all ages. Most cases are seen in individuals who are sixty years of age and older.
Alzheimer’sdisease may affect the day to day tasks and activities that someone engages in. There are a few factors to consider when looking at the causes of Alzheimer’s. The greatest influence is age, especially among people who are age sixty and above. Other factors of this disease include genetics, the environment, and lifestyle choices. In many cases, a combination of the three factors play a role in the development of the disease. However, every individual is unique and these factors may increase or decrease the risk of contracting the illness quite differently for each person.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
An individual with Alzheimer’s has extraordinary levels of beta-amyloid in the brain. It is known to be an extremely toxic protein that occurs naturally. High amounts of this protein build upon one another forming plaques which interrupt normal cell function by blocking neurons.
Causes/Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease
As an individual ages, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases. The amount of people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s has grown in recent years.
Genetics is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Genes in a parent’s DNA may be passed down to children. If an individual carries the Alzheimer’s gene, it may be inherited by that person’s offspring. Genes may also become mutated through environmental factors, which can then be passed down through genetics. Environmental factors include ultraviolet radiation from the sun, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition. Mutations in an individual’s genes may also occur during cell division when a parent’s DNA is replicated into new cells.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease usually occurs in three different stages, and these stages may be different for each unique individual. Symptoms may worsen overtime. Yet, some symptoms, such as problems with the brain, begin to form long before the person even knows that they have the disease.
Early Stage Symptoms
An individual in the early stage may notice small signs such as forgetting names, words, or locations of items. Often, they may not notice any symptoms in the beginning.
Early symptoms include:
- Memory Loss. Issues with remembering names and words may become a problem.
- Difficulty completing tasks. Issues may arise with completing daily or work related tasks.
- Forgetfulness. A person may begin to forget things they have just read or learned about.
- Lack of organization. Individuals may develop problems with keeping track of events and items.
Middle Stage Symptoms
During this stage, the individual and other people will begin to notice some of the issues related to Alzheimer’s.
Middle stage symptoms include:
- Confusion. This could include confusion about the date, time, and where that person is at a particular time.
- Forgetfulness. An individual may forget parts of their past, upcoming events, phone numbers, or events that they have participated in the past.
- Mood swings. A person may get upset in social settings or when presented with a mental challenge.
- Difficulty with decisions. Choosing what to eat or wear on a particular day or time may become an issue.
Changes in sleep. Mood and sleep patterns may begin to change very easily.
Late Stage Symptoms
In this stage, people with Alzheimer’s will become very problematic. Communication will become difficult with others. They will also experience problems with their movement. Memory issues will get worse, as well as the ability to do daily tasks.
Late stage symptoms include:
- Loss of abilities. Regular abilities such as running, sitting, and walking will become more difficult.
- Vulnerability. People may become susceptible to various illnesses and other diseases.
- Forgetfulness. An individual will begin to forget experiences that have recently occured, their surroundings, and memories.
- Communication. It will become much more difficult to communicate with other individuals compared to the previous stages.
- Difficulty with activities of daily living (ADLs). The individual will need help with certain daily tasks, including personal care and hygiene.
Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention
Although there is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, there are a few strategies to delay the onset or slow the progression of symptoms. The most important step an individual can do to try and prevent Alzheimer’s Disease is to be and act healthy. As they age, this will become especially important.
The top five areas of health you should focus on are:
- Nutrition. It is important for an individual to eata healthy diet. Diets that are filled with fruits and vegetables are necessary to fuel the body with nutrients. Other foods to incorporate into a healthy diet include whole grain, fish and olive oil. Mediterranean diets are among the best for their brain health benefits.
- Physical activity. It is great for a person to be physically fit. Promote proper health and wellness by engaging in activities such as running and other workouts that strengthen the body.
- Mental stimulation. Individuals need to keep their brain active as well. This can be done through mentally stimulating occupations, cognitive games, higher education, or engaging activities. Chess, book clubs, and other activities exercise the mind.
- Engagement in social activities. This includes going out to do activities like shopping or camping with friends and family. Social activities are not limited and may include concerts, museums, grabbing coffee with a friend, and more.
- Stay healthy. Individuals should monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol level to decrease the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, because these can lead to more health issues. People may also stay healthy by avoiding excessive smoking and drinking. If you smoke, read these 8 tips to help you quit smoking.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A medical professional can usually determine if someone has Alzheimer’s, but it can be a lengthy process. A proper diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease is strenuous because there is no single test that confirmsan individual has the disease.
These are the steps that can be taken to determine if a person has Alzheimer’s.
- Neurological and physical exam. This tests an individual’s motor responses—such as their reflexes—and may show if the nervous system has any issues.
- Brain imaging and blood tests. Any problems within the brain may be seen much more clearly through imaging.Blood tests can identify if an individual has the particular Alzheimer’s mutated gene.
- Mood and mental status testing. This will test an individual’s behavior, cognitive abilities, appearance, degree of consciousness, mood, perception, and attitudes.
- Medical history. Taking a closer look at an individual’s medical history may determine if a person’s health is getting better or worse. Illnesses or injuries in the past can help determine if someone might have Alzheimer’s Disease.
There is no one treatment to cure Alzheimer’s Disease, yet much can be done to help with cognitive and behavioral issues.
- Medication. There is no one medication that will cure Alzheimer’s, however certain medications may relieve some of the symptoms, such as memory loss..
- The drug class central acetylcholinesterase(AChEi) inhibitors prevent the AChEi enzyme from breaking down acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is essential to learning and memory function; in people with Alzheimer’s, acetylcholine is broken down. This will lead to an increase of acetylcholine. Useful drugs in this class are Donepezil, Galantamine, Rivastigmine.
- Treatment. Individuals with Alzheimer’s often take other medications,which may cause increased behavioral issues. Speaking with your doctor and asking questions is important and may prevent some issues. For example, unaddressed hearing problems may lead to more confusion for individuals with Alzheimer’s. A person with Alzheimer’s is more likely to contract other illnesses, and they may struggle with communicating issues or symptoms to their doctor.
- Clinical Trials. Individuals may participate in various clinical trials relating to Alzheimer’s that may help with understanding the relationship between symptoms and the effects of prevention tactics on cognition.
- CAM. Complementary and alternative medicine are health and wellness treatments that may help with various illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. Typically, these are used alongside conventional medicine or as an alternative treatment. Herbal remedies and dietary supplements are known by some to prevent symptoms of Alzheimer’s and slow the process down.
- Medical foods such as coconut oil and caprylic acid are known to cause brain growth by providing an alternative energy source for cells in the brain that cannot use sugar anymore due to Alzheimer’s.
- These are many other alternative therapies, yet it may be best to use them with conventional medicine. It is always best to consult your primary care physician.
How NurseRegistry Can Help
If you know someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, NurseRegistry can help. Our skilled nurses often provide greater peace of mind than unskilled care can. We offer a full range of services, including:
- Wellness checks
- Medication Management
- Palliative Care
- Case Management
- Hospice Care
- Respite Care
Caring for a loved one can be very challenging at times. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease can require a lot of attention and care. NurseRegistry can provide temporary care for your loved so that you can have the break you deserve, whether that be for a few hours or a weekend away. Each one of our nurses are licensed and experienced in a variety of specialities. You can depend on our nurses to provide excellent care to your loved ones.
Call (650) 462-1001 to speak with a Client Care Coordinator about care options for your loved one. Or, visit us online at NurseRegistry.com/Private-Care/.
The Alzheimer’s Association has educational information and resources.
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services has educational resources such as the National Institute on Aging.
The U.S National Library of Medicine has information on genetic conditions and mutations.
Mayoclinic.org offers educational resources and more information on Alzheimer’s Disease.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information has many educational resources and is an excellent resource for human behavior and the mind.
For more information on Alzheimer’s prevention and clinical trials visit nia.nih.gov.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose health problems or take the place of professional medical advice or care you receive from a health care provider. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis must be confirmed with a licensed medical professional. Always consult your health care provider about symptoms, health problems, medications, and treatments.