Alzheimer's disease is a frequent type of dementia. Currently, this disorder is considered irremediable and terminal. Advancement of Alzheimer's disease results in the decline of the patients suffering from it. The disorder refers to the set of symptoms that include memory loss, problems with communication, thinking and mood changes. Alzheimer's disease occurs when the protein fragments named plaques and tangles grow in the structure of the brain causing the death of the brain cells. People suffering from this disease have a deficiency of important chemicals in the brain. The chemicals play a role of communication of the messages within the brain.
Prevalent of the disease
It is assessed that nearly 5.2 million US citizens have Alzheimer's disease in 2014. Among them around 200,000 persons below the age of 65 are detected to have early-onset disorder (Alzheimer's Association, 2012). More than a half of US seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are recorded to be women. The number of men diagnosed with this disorder is about 1.8 million (Alzheimer's Association, 2012). The number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is anticipated to rise in the subsequent years due to the fact that “baby boom generation ages” (Alzheimer's Association, 2012, p. 14). Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th principal cause of death in the US with a death rate of 500,000 people annually (Alzheimer's Association, 2012).
The doctor can perform diagnosis using the following procedure:
- Complete physical exam including neurological exams;
- Asking questions about the patient's medical history and the symptoms experienced;
- A psychological status examination;
Diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is established when specific symptoms are present and the doctor is ensured that other causes of dementia are not existent.
Risk factors of Alzheimer's disease
1. Advanced age.
Alzheimer’s disease is not part of the ordinary aging, but the chances of its developing increase with advancing age. The people older than 65 are in the high-risk group. On the average, almost half of the people older than 85 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, it is quite possible for a person with singular genetic mutations to develop Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 30.
2. Family history and genetics
A person has higher chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease if their first-degree relatives experience it. Scientists have discovered a rare mutation in the gene called apolipoprotein E (ApoE) that exists in three variations: AoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4. ApoE4 gene cardinally increases the chances of developing this disease. However, this mutation accounts for insignificant percentage of the Alzheimer's disease. Most of the inherited genetic mechanisms of the Alzheimer’s remain a mystery.
Women have a higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease than their male counterparts because they live longer.
4. Lifestyle and heart health
Though there is no lifestyle that has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, there are suggestions that some factors that put a person at risk of heart diseases increase the chances of its advancing. Some examples of such lifestyle include smoking, lack of a balanced diet, high blood pressure, and insufficient physical activity.
5. Head trauma
Persons who have had a dangerous head injury or repeated head traumas stand a high chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Causes of Alzheimer
Alzheimer’s disease develops as a result of the death of brain cells. Plaques and tangles are regarded as two hallmarks of this disorder. Usually, when a doctor examines brain cells through a microscope, plaques and tangles are the two abnormalities seen. Plaques are masses of proteins that damage the brain in various ways including interfering to the cell to cell communication. Tau protein is a protein in charge of carriage of nutrients in the brain cells. It has threads that may twist into anomalous tangles in the brain cells causing failure to cell transportation system. The failure of the transport system strongly affects the brain cells and, in most cases, lead to their death.
Typical symptoms of Alzheimer
1. Early symptoms
- At earlier stages, a person may experience memory lapses. A person may thus:
- Forget names of objects;
- Forget recent conversations;
- Have problems in decision making;
- Ask questions repeatedly;
- Become unwilling to adapt to new changes.
2. Middle stage symptoms.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, memory problems get worse and a person with this conditions usually experience difficulties in remembering the names of relatives and friends.
3. Other symptoms include:
- Increasing levels of confusion and bewilderment. A person may not know where they are, may walk off and get lost;
- Obsessive, monotonous and impulsive behavior;
- Problems with language;
- Change in mood such as regular mood swings or feeling increasingly frustrated;
- Problems in performing spatial tasks;
- Difficulties with eyesight such as hallucinations.
4. Later symptoms
At later stages hallucinations and faith in false things become worse and a person may become violent, nagging, and suspicious of everybody, especially to those around them. Other symptoms that develop at this stage include:
- Problems in eating;
- Problems of movement;
- Significant weight loss;
- Urinary incontinence;
- Steady loss of speech;
- Problems with memory.
The doctor determines the method of treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer‘s disease depending on the following factors:
- Patient's age, their health level and medical history;
- The degree of the disease;
- Patient's tolerance for particular medicines and therapies;
- Patient's preference.
1. Drug treatment
Presently, Alzheimer’s disease is regarded incurable. However, the use of drugs and non-drug diagnosis may help to improve both reasoning and behavioral symptoms. The drugs that are currently in use include the cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA receptors (Massoud & Léger, 2011).
- Cholinesterase (donepezil or Aricept, rivastigmine or Exelon and galantamine or Reminly)
They function by prohibiting an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase from acetylcholine breaking down in the brain. The presence of the large amount of acetylcholine increases communication between cells and this may in turn momentarily improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The three cholinesterase inhibitors function in a similar manner, but one has to be compatible with an individual as regards to the side effects.
- NMDA receptors (Memantine or Ebixa)
Memantine functions by hindering glutamate (chemical messenger). Glutamate is freed in large amounts when brain cells are impaired by the Alzheimer's disease. Glutamate causes advance cells damage. Memantine, therefore, protects brain cells by constraining these effects of glutamate. Other methods of treatments include the use of a certain type of vitamins supplements that are believed to slow down Alzheimer’s (Ballard, Khan, Clack & Corbett, 2011).
Individuals are encouraged to adopt a lifestyle that is healthy and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Daily exercises are a key factor for the healthy living. Persons are also encouraged to engage in activities that are mentally stimulating and challenging.