Alzheimer's Disease
Dementia, Memory Loss And Confusion

memory loss


woman being told she has alzheimers

Alzheimer's Disease

Contents

What Is Alzheimer’s?
What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimer’s?
What Are The Symptoms?
What Causes It?
Is Alzheimer’s Hereditary?
How Is It Diagnosed?
How Is It Treated?
Can It Be Prevented?
Alzheimer Statistics




In This Section:


Early Signs
Causes
Stages
Tests and Diagnosis
Treatment
Prevention

Related Articles:

Head Problems

What Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain that causes memory loss, confusion, impaired thinking and dementia. There is no cure and the patient progressively becomes worse. The average survival rate is 8 years after diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is an older person's disease; the majority of those affected are over the age of 65. However, up to 5 percent of patients are in their 40s and 50s and have what is known as younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimer’s?

Basically, dementia is a symptom of an underlying disease and Alzheimer’s is one type of disease that can cause it.

Dementia is a general term to describe decline of mental ability in the elderly (memory loss for example). It used to be called senile dementia or senility because it was once thought to be a natural part of the aging process. Today this is no longer thought to be the case. Researchers believe it only afflicts people who have an underlying disease or disorder. Alzheimer’s is the cause of 60 to 80 percent of all cases of dementia. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common cause. In some cases dementia may be reversible if it caused by a treatable condition like thyroid disease or due to a vitamin deficiency.

What Are The Symptoms?

Usually, the first warning sign of Alzheimer's is difficulty remembering newly learned information. This is because the disease begins by destroying the part of the brain that affects learning. As it advances, it causes other symptoms such as:

• Disorientation, ending up in places and not remembering how you got there.
• Mood and behavior changes.
• Confusion about events, times and places.
• Unfounded suspicions about family, friends and caregivers.
• Progressively worsening memory loss and behavior changes.
• Difficulties speaking, swallowing and walking.

For expanded article: symptoms of Alzheimer's as well as stages of Alzheimer's to find out how it progresses.

What Causes It?

The cause or causes of Alzheimer’s are not yet fully understood (which is why we still have no cure). Scientists believe most cases are probably the result of a combination of 'bad' genes, lifestyle choices and environmental factors that together destroy the brain over time. As the disease develops it kills brain cells. As more cells are killed the brain gradually shrinks and is less capable of functioning normally.

Is Alzheimer’s Hereditary?

About 15 percent of people with Alzheimer's have one parent with the disease. Scientists have identified several inheritable genes associated with Alzheimer's. Mostly if you have these genes it increases your risk factor, but it does not guarantee you develop the disease. People who develop early onset Alzheimer’s, are an exception. They will have inherited a specific type of gene that guaranteed they developed Alzheimer's.

How Is It Diagnosed?

There is no single test for Alzheimer’s. A team of doctors conduct a battery of physical, neurological and psychiatric tests to rule out other causes of dementia - some of which may be treatable. The diagnosis of Alzheimer's is essentially an educated guess. At present the only way to diagnose the condition conclusively is to look at the brain during an autopsy. In actual practice is it estimated that 25 to 40 percent of people with Alzheimer’s are misdiagnosed. Many may in fact have treatable or reversible conditions that can cause Alzheimer-like symptoms such as thyroid disease, vitamin B deficiency, alcoholism or over-medication. A detailed examination from a skilled team of physicians can significantly reduce the risk of misdiagnosis.

How Is It Treated?

Currently there is no treatment that can prevent or halt the progression of the disease. Certain FDA approved medications may however temporarily improve cognitive (brain) symptoms in some patients (on average for 6 to 12 months only). These are cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine (Namenda). A high dose of vitamin E may also be recommended for its antioxidant properties. Eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and engaging in regular social activity can make the condition more bearable (this applies just as much to the caregivers because looking after someone with Alzheimer’s is a 24 hour job). For more, treatment for alzheimer's as well as alternative treatment for alzheimer's.

Can It Be Prevented?

Until the cause is better understood, advice on how to prevent the disease is limited. The strongest evidence so far shows that people with uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) have an increase risk of dementia. For women with hypertension, keeping it under control makes sense. Other possible contributory factors may include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood cholesterol. For more, see how to prevent Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer Statistics

• An estimated 5.1 million Americans and 500,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s.
• Your risk of developing the disease doubles every 5 years after the age of 65.
• An estimated 500,000 Americans under 65 have some form of dementia, including early onset Alzheimer’s.
• About 15 million Americans are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
• Every 68 seconds a new person develops Alzheimer's in the U.S. This is projected to increase to every 33 seconds by 2050 unless a cure or prevention is found.

  Related Articles on Memory Loss

For related information, see the following:

The human body: How the brain and other organs work.
Nervous system: How it works and diseases.
Main causes of death in women: Top 10 diseases that kill.

Back to Homepage: Womens Health Advice


original content

WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT MEMORY LOSS
Sources
Please Note: Information provided on this site is no substitute for professional medical help. See Disclaimer.
Copyright. All rights reserved.