Alzheimers Disease is Not a Normal Part of Aging
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a slowly progressive incurable disease of the brain that is characterized by impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception, leading to dementia.
Many scientists believe that AD results from an increase in the production or accumulation of a specific protein (beta-amyloid protein) in the brain that leads to nerve cell death.
The likelihood of developing the disease increases substantially after the age of 70 and may affecting 10% of people over 65 years of age and around 50% of persons over the age of 85.
Nevertheless, it is not a normal part of aging and is not something that inevitably happens later in life.
The main risk factor for AD is increased age. As a population ages, the frequency of Alzheimers disease continues to increase.
There are also genetic risks factors. Children of a patient with early onset AD who have inherited gene mutations associated with the disease have a 50% risk of developing the disease themselves.
In the majority of cases, however, no specific genetic risks have yet been identified.
Other risks factors include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and possibly elevated blood cholesterol.
The Alzheimers Association has developed the following ten warning signs that include common symptoms of the disease.
- Memory loss
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Problems with language
- Disorientation to time and place
- Poor or decreased judgment
- Problems with abstract thinking
- Misplacing things
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Changes in personality
- Loss of initiative
Because many other disorders can be confused with AD, individuals who exhibit several of these symptoms should see a physician for a complete clinical evaluation including; a thorough general medical workup, a neurological examination testing of memory and other functions of thinking, and a psychiatric evaluation to assess mood, anxiety, and clarity of thought.Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia characterized by:
- Impairment of memory
- impairment in another area of thinking such as the ability to organize thoughts and reason, the ability to use language, or the ability to see accurately the visual world (not because of eye disease).
- These impairments are severe enough to cause a decline in the patient's usual level of functioning.
Different studies have stated that Alzheimers disease progresses over two to 25 years with most patients in the eight to 15 year range (although determining the onset of AD started can be very difficult).
Patients usually don't die from the disease, instead they have difficulty swallowing or walking and these changes make overwhelming infections such as pneumonia much more likely.
Most people can remain at home as long as some assistance is provided by others as the disease progresses.
The management of AD consists of medication based and non-medication based treatments:
- Medication based: Two different classes of FDA approved pharmaceuticals are cholinesterase inhibitors and partial glutamate antagonist.
- Non-medication based: Treatments include maximizing patients' opportunities for social interaction and participating in activities such as walking, singing, or dancing.
Symptoms including agitation, depression, hallucinations, anxiety, and sleep disorders are sometimes also treated with standard psychiatric drugs although none of these drugs have been specifically approved by the FDA for treatment.
Care giving is a very distressing experience while also being very rewarding and satisfying if the caregiver receives proper education. Short-term educational programs and support groups are well liked by family caregivers of patients with Alzheimers disease and can lead to a modest increase in disease knowledge and a greater confidence among caregivers.
The 3R s- Repeat, Reassure, and Redirect - can help caregivers reduce troublesome behaviors and limit the use of medications.
The Alzheimers Association
can provide for more information on the disease and support services
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