Alzheimer’s disease is the loss of connection between brain cells and neurons. It is a progressive form of dementia which leads to memory loss, physical and mental impairment, and other complications. Alzheimer is the biggest risk factor of aging. Its symptoms start to show after 65. However, early onset of Alzheimer is also observed between 40’s and 50’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is not the normal age factor but it is a disease which degenerates the brain cells and causes shrinkage of the brain. Ultimately, the brain is unable to function properly and the person can no longer live a normal life. Alzheimer progresses gradually with age and its intensity varies from person to person. Some people show drastic symptoms while others show mild yet progressive symptoms.
The brain has a control system which helps regulate the proteins in the brain. In Alzheimer, the brain can no longer control the quantity of proteins called ‘oligomers’ which form clumps in the brain thus killing healthy nerve cells. The brain cells lose connection due to these clumps. As the time passes, the brain starts to shrink and causes memory loss and other personality changes.
Is Alzheimer’s disease and dementia the same?
Dementia is a broader term for memory loss, fatigue, forgetfulness, and mental impairment. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease etc. are the forms of dementia. A person suffering from dementia may suffer from both Parkinson and Alzheimer’s disease. So, dementia is a broader term and its causes, symptoms, and treatments may differ completely from Alzheimer.
Causes of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Aging is the main cause of Alzheimer. Aging causes the brain cells to shrink and the brain becomes weak. Although on-set of Alzheimer is way earlier than it is diagnosed. So, it is not obvious that exactly when it starts to happen.
- Genes play an important role in Alzheimer’s disease. If your relative, parent or parents, siblings have had Alzheimer then you are at greater risk factor. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene that is linked to Alzheimer. But it is not obvious a person having a family history and APOE will for sure develop the disease. Many people do not have APOE yet they develop Alzheimer. Possible reasons can be aging and other environmental factors.
- People having Down’s syndrome will eventually develop Alzheimer. Studies have shown that this might be due to the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21.
- Hypertension, heart disease, smoking and an unhealthy lifestyle can also cause the onset of the disease.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:
The symptoms vary from person to person. Some common symptoms on which diagnosis can be done are:
- Forgetfulness, complete loss of short-term memory.
- Not able to recognize the people around.
- Cannot remember the memories.
- Trouble making sentences and remembering words.
- Disorganized speech and behavior.
- Mood swings.
- Repetition of words.
- Poor judgment.
- Poor hygiene.
Note that not only one symptom accounts for the disease. All the symptoms combined with psychological, neuropsychological and brain tests can be used to diagnose the disease. Alzheimer has 7 stages and it cannot be diagnosed before the stage 4. So, it is diagnosed after it has already caused much damage to the brain.
Alzheimer has no cure. Presently, there is no way we can control it from increasing. We can only minimize the symptoms but cannot control it from getting worse.
Certain drugs are prescribed by the doctors which help increase the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is responsible for sharp memory. So these medications can help patients with memory loss.
For severe Alzheimer, the doctor can prescribe Memantine which is a drug that blocks the effects of glutamate. Glutamate is a brain chemical that when released in higher amounts damages the brain cells. The amount of glutamate increases excessively during Alzheimer’s disease progression.
Modification in lifestyle:
Certain modifications can help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer. These include:
- Make a proper routine of your day and follow that routine strictly.
- Try to write down the memories.
- Place your keys, mobile phone, and other accessories in the same place every time.
- Try to exercise. If unable to walk then try to exercise while sitting or lying down.
- Get proper sleep every day.
- Try to add nutrients to your diet that sharpen the memory. These include omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
If Alzheimer is running in your family or you are noticing some changes in your thinking ability, memory etc. then you should take a smart step and start taking these preventive measures from today!
- Start exercising regularly. Deep breathing and exercises to improve concentration can be very helpful.
- Solve mathematical problems and puzzles. Indulge yourself in some board game.
- Have enough sleep. Sleep relaxes the mind.
- Try to learn new things every day. This will stimulate the brain and will have a good impact.
- A daily ten minutes’ walk may help ward off dementia! Studies have shown that this much walk each day energizes the hypothalamus-part of the brain responsible for memory. So, this ten-minute’ walk can boost the memory.
Good news-Scientists developing treatment for Alzheimer’s disease:
Last but not the least here’s the big news! Scientists from Cambridge University and from Sweden are on the way of forming a medicine that will target the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and reduce it significantly. This Dementia Drug will battle the Alzheimer by reducing the amount of proteins (oligomers) that form clumps in the brain. So, it is a huge milestone and is hoped to be a proper treatment that will lessen the disease instead of just controlling its symptoms. Hopefully, the drug tests will start by 2020 and will lead a better treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.