Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive disorder of the brain, where the brain cells degenerate and die out. It might take some time for the process to set in, but the degeneration is quite rapid thereafter. The disease is often seen as a precursor to dementia, that often makes a person lose cognitive ability, social skills, thinking skills and behaviour patterns. A person with Alzheimer’s may first have short memory lapses, in which they cannot remember everyday tasks, landmarks, objects of regular use, even names. These lapses then progress into complete failure to recollect one’s own name or address, think like one used to, or even understand anything that is spoken or asked. It is quite common for those with Alzheimer’s to get dementia and lose all sense of self. It is a disease that often occurs in older people. However, there are stray cases of early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s in which people as young as 40 have shown the first signs of developing the disease.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease yet.

What causes Alzheimer’s?

Doctors and researchers have not yet had a breakthrough in determining what causes Alzheimer’s Disease. There is no reasonable explanation why brain proteins that used to work previously suddenly lose their ability to do so. When this happens, they disrupt the workings of neurons in the brain and make them lose their connections with each other. In the end, the neurons die and the brain functioning is affected.

The first area of attack is often in the part of the brain that works with memory and cognition. Hence, the first symptom is often memory loss. In the later stages of the disease, the brain shrinks quite a lot from its previous size, and there are plaques on certain parts of it.

Certain factors are said to contribute to the degeneration of brain cells, namely:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Mental health illnesses
  • Isolation from, or lack of adequate human interaction
  • Pollution
  • Ineffectual or scant use of the brain cells in creative and analytical pursuits
  • Lack of proper mental stimuli
  • Food high in trans fats, MSG, processed or refined substances, etc.
  • Family history of Alzheimer’s
  • Head injuries
  • Hypertension
  • Improper cell function and restoration processes, due to genetic or autoimmune breakdown
  • How to know if you or a family member has Alzheimer’s

    The very first sign of Alzheimer’s Disease is a lack of memory. A person suffering from it will initially be aware that they have forgotten a recent event or conversation. They may also note that they are forgetting everyday tasks, or names of people they meet often, or even the relationships between people they know. As the disease progresses, they lose the ability to remember that they are forgetting these things!

    A person suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease will exhibit one or more, or all of these signs:

    • Inability to remember names, addresses, where one has kept objects that they use everyday
    • Repeating the same questions and conversations over and over again
    • Entirely forget appointments and events, and have no recollection of having forgotten them
    • Lose their way in places that they are familiar with, and struggle to reach home or the place they were going to
    • Forget words that describe things while having conversations, or lose the thread of the conversation entirely while listening or talking
    • Misplace their personal belongings and find them in inappropriate, illogical places
    • Over time, forget their own family members, or how they are related to them
    • Lose the ability to participate in conversations
    • Forget how to dress and even dress inappropriately for the weather
    • Acquire a different personality than before. Depression, frequent bouts of anger or tears are routine, as are insomnia, wandering outside the house, delusionary behaviour and distrust of fellow human beings
    • Become fearful of being in one’s own house because they do not recognise their surroundings or the people in it
  • Mostly done by clinical and neurological examination by a neurologist
  • Neurological imaging and blood flow studies to exclude other neurodegenerative diseases
  • Neuropsychological examinations
  • Treatment of Alzheimer’s is essentially supportive as there are no cure available
    •      - Medicines to promote more neurotransmitter availability to nerve cells
    •      - Medicines to prevent overstimulation of nervous system
    •      - Psychiatric medication for associated psychological symptoms
    •      - Psychosocial interventions to moderate behavioural, emotional, cognitive and mental stimulation aspects
    •      - Nursing care as the disease is progressive and debilitating

    Disclaimer : The details provided herein is meant for informative purposes only. For detailed information related to the disease and its treatment please consult a relevant qualified specialist.

    Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s yet, it is possible to have some semblance of a normal life despite the disease. Preventing the onset of the disease is often the best way to deal with the situation, especially if there is a history of the disease in the family. There are certain sophisticated tests to determine if you carry the gene. Meanwhile, you can consider these preventive measures:

    • Get yourself tested by a reputed neurologist working in the field of Alzheimer’s Disease, for memory and cognition abilities, after the age of 50 years.
    • Keep your brain active with puzzles, learning new things, travelling to new places, and forging new connections with people.
    • Socialise as much as possible with different age groups and with people whose work and family profiles are completely different from yours. This helps you learn new things and get a new perspective on people and the world.
    • Eat a balanced diet comprising all the essential food groups. Take care to include multivitamins and iron supplements in your diet to aid brain function. Food rich in good fats and oils are essential to maintain good brain function.
    • Exercise as much as you can, to allow more oxygenated blood to reach the brain.
    • Improve sleep quality by trying to sleep more, detach from electronic gadgets at least one hour before bedtime, and remove all sources of distraction while you sleep.
    • Control your weight.