Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the death of brain cells caused by protein getting tangled within the structure of the brain and is a progressive illness. Statistics worldwide show that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease currently stands at an estimated 36 million people, which will probably rise to 150 million by 2050.

The very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can be in the early 20’s but the signs and symptoms don’t tend to show until much later – about 65 is when the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease rises sharply. If treatment for dementia was started in the early 20’s before much of the damage is done to the brain, then prevention of the more serious and debilitating symptoms may be possible.

Risk factors and prevention

1 in 14 people over the age of 65, and 1 in 6 over the age of 80 will suffer from Alzheimer’s. However early onset dementia is possible and this mainly occurs if someone in your close family has developed the disease. Other potential causes are head injuries, smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes.

The best way for prevention, or reducing the risks, seems to be keeping your brain active, by reading or being involved in thinking and active hobbies and by living a healthy lifestyle. Prevention of dementia has also found to be increased among those who drank fruit and vegetable juices; this is thought to be because of the high levels of anti-oxidants they contain.

There is no known cure of dementia but certain drugs can help alleviate the symptoms by maintaining the levels of acetylcholine or by protecting nerve cells from cell death, as well as dopamine altering medications may help to alleviate some of the mood and emotional issues that are some signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are loss of memory, forgetting how to do day to day tasks, changes in mood, behavior or personality.

Diagnosis is best made by taking a careful history of the progression of problems, but there is no simple test to confirm diagnosis, and only after death can the diagnosis really be confirmed.

Alzheimer’s disease is just one condition which causes the symptoms of dementia. An early diagnosis of dementia is extremely useful as it opens up the treatment options. Ongoing research is trying to find an underlying cause for dementia and also to find a reliable treatment method that can be used after the onset of symptoms.

Conclusion

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. Although there is no known cure against this illness, if treatment begins in the very early stages then it is possible to delay the onset of full Alzheimer’s before the effects become too destructive to daily living. The earlier the diagnosis can be made the better the treatment options that are available.

Measures such as taking medications which keep dopamine, and acetylcholine levels steady and slow down the damage to cells are all good ways to alleviate symptoms. Many governments have made finding a cure for this degenerative disease a high priority.

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