What is Alzheimer’s?

Published by Steve Hedberg on May 28, 2009 Under dementia

brain1Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia among seniors and causes a number of changes in the mind. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process, so it is not something that is inevitable. The exact causes of Alzheimer’s are not known, however it is much more common in those over 65, with only a small number of people under 50 effected by Alzheimer’s.

Even though there is no known cure or way to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s, there are a number of treatments that have been shown to help reduce the symptoms. Since Alzheimer’s has a major impact on the mind, a great deal of the treatment involves educating the family and providing a strong support center for the senior.

Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

There are a few factors that can increase an individuals risk of Alzheimer’s, but these are not well documented. In fact, there are very few known risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s.

Many studies have shown that hereditary plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s, with it often manifesting itself in families with a history of Alzheimer’s. It has specifically been linked to a specific chromosome known as chromosome 21, which is common to the family line. However, the increased hereditary risk is not very high, even in families where a sibling or parent has Alzheimer’s.

The development of Alzheimer’s later in life after experiencing severe head trauma have also been shown to be related.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

There are a number of symptoms of Alzheimer’s, with the onset typically slow over a long period of time. Typically these symptoms do not manifest themselves until the individual is over the age of 65. Since the onset of Alzheimer’s is usually very slow, it is important to examine all suspicious symptoms that could be attributed to Alzheimer’s.

Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms

One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. The individual might repeatedly forget to preform tasks such as shutting the front door, taking their medicine, or turning off the iron.

Small personality changes are also common, including withdrawing from social situations and a general sense of apathy.

Over time, the effects of Alzheimer’s increase, with problems with abstract and intellectual thinking becoming much more common. This often can be seen with confusion over bills, reading comprehension, and prioritizing ones work throughout the day.

Behavior disturbances also become more common, with agitation and argumentativeness becoming increasingly more common place. These disturbances can also be seen in a loss of the ability to dress appropriately.

The Later Stages of Alzheimer’s

As Alzheimer’s progresses, the individual will likely become much more confused and disoriented. They may no longer know what month it is or be able to describe where they live. This can lead to wandering, inability to carry on conversations, and an overall inattentive behavior.

Mood swings are also common, with the individual becoming uncooperative. The inability to consistently control the bladder and bowels can also occur.

In the final stages of Alzheimer’s, the individual is often completely unable to take care of themselves. Death is more likely during this stage, often caused by other factors, like pneumonia, which can be more difficult to fight when in a weakened state.

For most individuals, Alzheimer’s lasts for between 10 and 15 years, although it can also range from 2 to 20 years. Individuals who develop Alzheimer’s later in life are more likely to die from other disease or illnesses, like heart failure, before Alzheimer’s reaches its final stage.

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