Alzheimer’s disease is a form of progressive dementia. Dementia is a broader term for conditions caused by brain injury or illness that negatively affects memory, thought, and behavior. This change disturbs everyday life.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with this disease get a diagnosis after the age of 65 years. If diagnosed before that, it is commonly referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease.
Although many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, some are not sure of having it. Here are some facts about this condition:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic condition that is ongoing.
- The symptoms appear gradually and their effects on the brain are degenerative, which means they cause a slow decline.
- There is no cure for Alzheimer’s but treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and can improve quality of life.
- Anyone can get Alzheimer’s disease but certain people are at higher risk for it. This includes people over the age of 65 and those who have a family history of the condition.
- Alzheimer’s and dementia are not the same thing. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia.
- No single outcome is expected for people with Alzheimer’s. Some people live long lives with mild cognitive impairment, while others experience a faster onset of symptoms and faster disease progression.
- The journey of every person with Alzheimer’s disease is different.
Dementia vs Alzheimer’s
The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the two conditions are not the same. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. Dementia is a broader term for conditions with symptoms related to memory loss such as forgetfulness and confusion. Dementia includes more specific conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and others, which can cause these symptoms.
Causes of Alzheimer’s disease and risk factors
Experts have not yet determined a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but they have identified certain risk factors, including:
- Age. Most people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are 65 years or older.
- Family history. If you have a close family member who has experienced this condition, you are likely to get it.
- Genetics. Certain genes have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. It only increases your risk level.
Alzheimer’s and genetics
Although no single cause of Alzheimer’s can be identified, genetics may play a key role. One gene is of particular interest to researchers. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene that is associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms in older adults.
A blood test can determine whether you have this gene, which increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind that even if someone has this gene, they may not have Alzheimer’s.
The converse is also true: A person may still suffer from Alzheimer’s even if they don’t have genes. There is no way to be sure whether someone will suffer from Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Everyone has forgetful episodes from time to time. But people with Alzheimer’s disease show certain behaviors and symptoms that continue to get worse over time. This can include:
- memory loss that affects daily activities, such as the ability to keep promises
- difficulties with ordinary tasks, such as cooking etc.
- difficulty with problem solving
- problems with reading and writing
- get confused about time or place (forget)
- impairment in judgment
- decreased personal hygiene
- mood and personality changes
- withdrawals from friends, family and community
- Alzheimer’s stages
- Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms will gradually worsen over time. Alzheimer’s is broken down into seven stages:
Stage 1. There are no symptoms at this stage but there may be an early diagnosis based on family history.
Stage 2. The earliest symptoms appear, such as forgetfulness.
Stage 3. Mild physical and mental disorders arise, such as reduced memory and concentration. This might only be seen by someone who is very close to that person.
Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at this stage, but is still considered mild. Loss of memory and inability to perform daily tasks clearly.
Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms require help from a loved one or caregiver.
Stage 6. At this stage, sufferers of Alzhei