Alzheimer's disease

Image Caption : Aging Brain or Brain with Alzheimer's disease? : Recent research suggests that a brain affected by Alzheimer's disease looks very different from one undergoing normal aging. While all brains shrink in volume as we get older, Alzheimer's brains lose even more volume than healthy brains. Understanding these differences could lead to better ways to diagnose the disease earlier, even before symptoms appear.By the time Alzheimer's is well-established, there are distinct differences between an affected brain and one that is aging normally, say experts. But increasingly, they believe it's important to identify those who are in the early stages of disease, so they might benefit from lifestyle interventions, such as keeping their brains active, that might slow down the progression of Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's Disease

Also called: AD

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities.

AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. People with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. A related problem, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), causes more memory problems than normal for people of the same age. Many, but not all, people with MCI will develop AD.

In AD, over time, symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members or have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. This can cause great stress for family members who must care for them.

AD usually begins after age 60. The risk goes up as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease.

No treatment can stop the disease. However, some drugs may help keep symptoms from getting worse for a limited time.

NIH: National Institute on Aging

Alzheimer's disease (AD), also known as Alzheimer disease, or just Alzheimer's, accounts for 60% to 70% of cases of dementia. It is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss). As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues. As a person's condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the average life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.

The cause of Alzheimer's disease is poorly understood. About 70% of the risk is believed to be genetic with many genes usually involved. Other risk factors include a history of head injuries, depression, or hypertension. The disease process is associated with plaques and tangles in the brain. A probable diagnosis is based on the history of the illness and cognitive testing with medical imaging and blood tests to rule out other possible causes. Initial symptoms are often mistaken for normal ageing. Examination of brain tissue is needed for a definite diagnosis. Mental and physical exercise, and avoiding obesity may decrease the risk of AD. There are no medications or supplements that decrease risk.

No treatments stop or reverse its progression, though some may temporarily improve symptoms. Affected people increasingly rely on others for assistance, often placing a burden on the caregiver; the pressures can include social, psychological, physical, and economic elements. Exercise programs are beneficial with respect to activities of daily living and can potentially improve outcomes. Treatment of behavioral problems or psychosis due to dementia with antipsychotics is common but not usually recommended due to there often being little benefit and an increased risk of early death.

In 2010, there were between 21 and 35 million people worldwide with AD. It most often begins in people over 65 years of age, although 4% to 5% of cases are early-onset Alzheimer's which begin before this. It affects about 6% of people 65 years and older. In 2010, dementia resulted in about 486,000 deaths. It was first described by, and later named after, German psychiatrist and pathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906. In developed countries, AD is one of the most financially costly diseases.

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.