Alzheimer’s Disease: An Overview
1. Alzheimer’s disease: An overview
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that leads to memory loss, deterioration of cognitive (thinking) ability, and personality changes. The disease was first described by German psychiatrist and neurologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of all cases. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to affect daily life.
Alzheimer’s disease affects people of all races and ethnic groups. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, affecting an estimated 5% of people over the age of 65 years and nearly 50% of those over the age of 85 years. The disease is slightly more common in women than in men.
Although Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured, treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve quality of life and help people maintain their independence for longer. There is no single test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, doctors will assess a person’s medical history, family history, mental health, and physical health to make a diagnosis. A variety of tests may be used to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as depression, thyroid problems, or Lewy body dementia.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood, but it is thought to involve a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Genetics may play a role in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which affects people under the age of 65 years. A small number of cases (less than 1%) are caused by inherited mutations in three genes: amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PSEN1), and presenilin 2 (PSEN2). These mutations lead to an increased production of amyloid beta protein, which builds up in the brain and causes cell death.
Lifestyle factors that have been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease include smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and chronic stress. Some research has also suggested that social isolation and lonely may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Medications can be prescribed to help with memory loss, confusion, and sleep problems. These drugs do not cure Alzheimer’s disease but may improve quality of life for some people. Lifestyle changes that may help reduce symptoms include getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and participating in social activities.
Right support and proper service are essential for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. There are many organizations that offer support and information for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. These organizations can help connect people with resources and services in their community.