What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. It is the most common type of dementia (an umbrella term relating to problems with memory, thinking and behaviour).
It is not a normal process of aging. In fact, early onset Alzheimer’s occurs from ages 30 to 60. Symptoms of late onset Alzheimer’s begin at age 60.
Signs and Symptoms
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. It usually begins with difficulty in remembering recent events and learning new material. As the disease progresses, language problems, disorientation and agitation can occur.
Some symptoms may include:
- Difficulties in thinking and making judgments
- Challenges in planning and performing familiar tasks
- Social withdrawal
- Distrust in others
- Mood swings
There is no single test for Alzheimer’s disease, so doctors will look for some of these symptoms to determine whether the person has Alzheimer’s disease. Cognitive assessments and brain imaging tests can also be used as tools to indicate the likelihood of having Alzheimer’s disease.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not fully understood, but researchers focus on two main proteins: plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
Plaques are leftover beta-amyloid proteins. They build up in the brain areas responsible for thinking processes.
Neurofibrillary tangles are made up of tau proteins that distribute nutrients to neurons. Mutated tau proteins cause neurofibrillary tangles to accumulate in the brain area associated with memory.
Becoming older increases the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
Having parents or siblings who have Alzheimer’s disease increases the chances of developing it too. People with APOEe4 gene increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Smoking, low social support, obesity and high blood pressure increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but medications can be given to reduce the symptoms, and maintain mental functions.
Having healthier lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The following modifiers may help:
- Quitting smoking
- Active socialisation
- Eating healthy food with low salt and saturated fats
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