Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive brain condition. It is characterized by alterations in the brain that result in the deposition of certain proteins. Alzheimer’s disease leads to a progressive shrinkage in brain size, ultimately resulting in the demise of brain cells. Dementia, which is characterized by a slow loss of memory, reasoning, behavior, and social skills, is most frequently caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
At its initial stages, Alzheimer’s disease manifests through the early signs of forgetting recent conversations or events. As the condition progresses, individuals experience increasingly severe memory problems, eventually leading to a significant decline in functional abilities and an impaired capacity to carry out daily activities.
However, no two people with AD have the same experience. The stages of Alzheimer’s disease will be experienced by each patient differently. Not every person will experience all changes. Since stages may overlap, it can occasionally be challenging for providers to classify a person with AD in a particular stage.
- Mild stage: Forgetting newly acquired information, particularly recent events, locations, and names, is the most common early sign. Most persons with mild AD can typically travel to familiar places and recognize faces without any trouble.
- Moderate stage: The moderate stage of Alzheimer’s disease can endure for many years. People with moderate AD frequently need care and support.
- Severe stage: Dementia symptoms, which are severe in the terminal stage of Alzheimer’s. For comfort at this time, hospice care might be helpful.
Healthcare providers commonly emphasize the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease during their discussions. Preclinical AD patients, despite being asymptomatic, undergo progressive changes in their brains. This phase can span several decades, allowing individuals to maintain a high level of cognitive function. As a result, they are typically not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during this stage.
The symptoms’ progression may be slowed or improved by medications. Programs and services can benefit both those who are ill and the people who care for them.
Alzheimer’s disease cannot be treated; there is no cure. Dehydration, starvation, or infection might result from significant brain function loss in its advanced stages. These issues have the potential to be fatal.
A person with a medical condition may initially be aware of experiencing memory loss and clear-headedness issues. A friend or family member may become more aware of the problems as the symptoms worsen.
The primary sign of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. Early warning indications include having trouble recalling previous conversations or events. But as the illness worsens, memory declines and additional symptoms appear.
- Memory loss: Everyone occasionally experiences memory loss, but Alzheimer’s disease-related memory loss is persistent and worsens over time.
- Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit the following symptoms:
- They may repeat statements and questions repeatedly, often without realizing it.
- They may struggle to remember conversations, appointments, or important events.
- They may place objects in unusual or nonsensical locations, making it difficult for them to find things later.
- They may become lost or disoriented in familiar places that were once familiar to them.
- They may gradually forget the names of close family members and common everyday objects, impairing their ability to recognize and remember familiar faces and items.
- They may encounter challenges in finding the right words to express their thoughts, engage in conversations, or describe objects accurately.
- Thinking and reasoning: Concentration and thinking problems are brought on by Alzheimer’s disease, especially when it comes to abstract ideas like numbers. Managing multiple tasks at once is very challenging. To handle money, keep checkbooks balanced, and make on-time payments on bills may be difficult. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may eventually lose the ability to comprehend and use numbers.
- Judgments and decision making: Reasonable judgment and decision-making skills deteriorate as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, a person might dress inappropriately for the weather or make poor decisions in social situations. Some people may find it more difficult to respond to everyday issues.
- Planning and performing familiar tasks: Simple tasks that need following steps in order become challenging. This could involve organizing and preparing a meal or engaging in a favorite activity. People with advanced Alzheimer’s disease eventually lose the ability to perform fundamental chores like dressing and taking a shower.
- Personality and behavior changes: Moods and behaviors may be affected by the brain alterations that result from Alzheimer’s disease. Depression, loss of interest in activities, mood swings, rage, violence, and delusions are a few examples of problems.
- Preserved skills: People with Alzheimer’s disease are able to retain some skills even as their symptoms worsen, despite significant changes to their memory and cognitive abilities. Reading or listening to books, telling stories, sharing memories, singing, listening to music, dancing, painting, or making crafts are just a few examples of talents that might be preserved.
Memory loss or other dementia symptoms can be caused by a variety of illnesses. Some of such ailments are treatable. Speak with your doctor if you are worried about your memory or other cognitive abilities.
If an individual is concerned about experiencing symptoms resembling dementia or notices cognitive decline in a friend or family member, it is advisable to openly discuss these concerns and suggest seeking medical attention together. By initiating a conversation and expressing their worries, they can explore the possibility of visiting a healthcare provider jointly.
The specific cause of Alzheimer’s disease remains unknown, but it is understood that at a fundamental level, brain proteins experience abnormal functioning. This disruption sets off a series of events that interfere with the normal functioning of brain cells, known as neurons. As a result, damaged neurons gradually lose their connections with one another and, over time, undergo degeneration and cell death.
Healthcare provider believe that a complicated series of brain alterations that may take place over decades are the cause of Alzheimer’s. The root cause is probably a result of a mix of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Alzheimer’s disease results an ongoing negative impact on the brain. Only 1% of cases of Alzheimer’s are brought on by certain genetic alterations that virtually always result in the disease. In these situations, the illness typically manifests in middle age.
Many years before any symptoms appear, the disease starts to develop. The part of the brain that regulates memory is where impairment is most frequently first experienced. Other parts of the brain experience the death of neurons in a rather predictable fashion. The brain has greatly decreased in size by the end of the sickness.
Current research into the cause of Alzheimer’s disease places significant emphasis on two proteins. These proteins are the primary focus of scientific investigation and study in understanding the underlying mechanisms of the disease:
- Plaques: The protein beta-amyloid is a piece of a bigger protein. These pieces appear to be harmful to neurons and disrupt brain cell communication when they group together. These aggregates combine with other cellular debris to form bigger deposits known as amyloid plaques.
- Tangles: The internal support and transportation system used by brain cells to convey nutrition and other necessary components includes tau proteins. Neurofibrillary tangles are formations made up of tau proteins that alter shape and organize in Alzheimer’s disease. The tangles damage cells and interfere with the transport system.
The following factors increases the risk in developing Alzheimer’s disease:
- Age: The biggest recognized risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is growing older. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. However, the likelihood of developing it rises as one ages.
- Sex: Since women often live longer than men do, there are generally more women with the condition.
- Family history and genetics: If a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, already has the condition, the risk of having it has possibly increased. The genetic influences are likely complex, and it is unclear exactly how genes within families affect risk.
Rare mutations in three genes have been discovered by researchers, and inheriting one of them almost certainly results in Alzheimer’s disease. But fewer than 1% of Alzheimer’s patients experience these alterations.
- Down syndrome: Alzheimer’s disease affects a lot of people with Down syndrome. Due to having three copies of chromosome 21, this is most likely connected. The gene on chromosome 21 is responsible for producing the protein that results in beta-amyloid formation. Plaques made of beta-amyloid fragments can develop in the brain. People with Down syndrome typically experience symptoms 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population.
- Mild cognitive impairment (MCI): Dementia is significantly more likely to develop in those with MCI. When MCI primarily impacts memory, Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia is more likely to develop as a result of the condition.
A person with MCI experiences a larger decline in memory or other thinking abilities than is typical for their age. However, the deterioration does not interfere with the person’s ability to operate in social or professional settings.
- Head trauma: People with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People with more severe and numerous TBIs are at an even greater risk. The risk may be greatest in the first six months to two years following the injury.
- Air pollution: Air pollution particulates have been shown in studies on animals to speed up the degeneration of the neurological system. Additionally, research on people has shown that exposure to air pollution, particularly that from burning wood and vehicle exhaust, increases the risk of dementia.
- Alcohol consumption: Large alcohol consumption has long been linked to altered brain chemistry. Alcohol use disorders were found to increase the incidence of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia, in a number of significant research and reviews.
- Poor sleep patterns: Poor sleep habits, such as having problems getting or staying asleep, have been related to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research.
- Lifestyle and heart health: According to research, dementia indicators are similar to those linked to heart disease risk factors. It’s unclear whether these factors raise the likelihood of dementia by making Alzheimer’s disease-related brain alterations worse or by causing vascular abnormalities in the brain.
The following are modifiable factors that raise the risk of developing of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle and not engaging in regular physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- Smoking tobacco or being exposed to secondhand smoke
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High levels of cholesterol in the blood
- Poorly managed or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
As a result, altering the lifestyle behaviors can somewhat change the risk. For instance, a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease is associated with regular exercise and a nutritious, low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Lifelong learning and social engagement: According to research, social interaction and mental stimulation throughout life can reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Less than a high school diploma appears to be an educational risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.