Alzheimer's is cause of dementia which predominantly affects the memory. It may come with age and may interfere with your day to day life or your normal functioning. In this disorder, the brain cells start to degenerate and die. Alzheimer's disease is known as the commonest cause of dementia, where there is a loss of thinking and social skills, that can disturb a person's everyday functioning. It predominantly affects brain's every function, like your behaviour, intellect, how you dress , how you carry on your professional duties, etc.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most difficult and emotionally challenging diseases to experience for a person and their loved ones. World Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated every year around the world to raise awareness about this disease and to support those who suffer from it. World Alzheimer’s Day 2021 is celebrated on 21st September every year. On this occasion, Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. Rajiv Anand, Senior Director, Neurology, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi, mainly about the stages, symptoms, risk factors and treatment for Alzheimer's disease.
Stages of Alzheimer's disease
Dr. Rajiv said, "In Alzheimer's, the memory starts getting affected to the point that you are forgetting the routine things and are not being able to carry out your routine work. The person even tends to repeat a thing too often. This is medically called Palilalia. This happens because they want to tell their brain again and again but it takes longer to respond. According to Dr. Rajiv, here are the stages of Alzheimer's disease:
1. Early stage
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In the earlier stages, it is a memory problem but the patient can do easy tasks of daily living for themselves. They can fulfil basic needs like bathing themselves, eating on their own, etc. One feature of memory failure is when people are unable to name things. For example, if he/she has fruits kept in front, then they won't be able to name that fruit or won't be able to name familiar faces. So, this is what happens in the earlier stage. It is advised that a dementia patient should have a tattoo of their contact number or address, which can help incase they are found wandering.
2. Moderate stage
Brain functions manage a person's movement and conduct in social situations too. And this involves the usage of your memory. In this moderate stage, the patient suffering from Alzheimer's disease won't be able to do professional works and will also not be able to take self care. They become totally dependent on their family and friends in this situation. They become helpless and cannot do ADL (activities of daily living), so the daily living relies on the care givers then.
3. Final stage
The third and final stage would be that they lose their whole identity and become bed ridden. They are dependent for everything now. When the normal brain stops functioning, there are many abnormal things that come up. Suppose, if a person gets agitated, he/she may start hallucinating or start seeing things that aren't there. Then the normal brain function gets disrupted, which becomes worrisome for the care givers and for the society. abnormal sexual advances to people. In this end stage, the patient lies curled up in the bed in the fetal posture. And the situation only gradually worsens. The patient becomes unaware of what is happening to him. In fact, they might even take off their clothes or pass urine at any place.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
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The signs or indications of someone having Alzheimer's are quite clear and can be identified by any close family member or friend of the patient. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disorder and can damage your brain cells adversely. The loss of personality, social and behavioural skills can make an individual do a lot of things without realising what they are doing. This can not only affect the day to day life of a person, but can also have a negative impact on their personal and professional relationships. Here are the most common symptoms of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease:
- Loss of memory in certain conversations or forgetting dates and days of the calender
- Difficulty in concentrating and shortened attention span
- Difficulty in doing day to day tasks
- Mood swings
- Misplacing personal belongings
- Not being able to express and understand anything
- Poor decision making without thinking
Alzheimer's risk factors
There are some modifiable risk factors and those factors can be remembered as they are just 6 'S'. If you work on these, then your chances of getting brain dysfunctional or demented are less. According to Dr. Rajiv, they are:
By stress it also means high blood pressure. Stress and anxiety can lead to many health problems. Moreover, it can even disturb your brain cells. Emotional as well as physical stress can increase the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease.
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Persistent sleep deprivation for a long period of time can also be a trigger for Alzheimer's. Lack of sleep can make your brain cells tired and you tend to lose focus and control over things. Therefore, one has to take proper sleep of atleast 7-8 hours daily.
Spirit is when the person needs to have the will to live a long life. End of life is not the solution to any suffering. If the spirits are high and there is motivation to live your life to the fullest, it can surely reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The positivity can help in regulating your mind and body.
Smoking has a tendency of increasing the risk of vascular diseases and it can also affect your brain negatively, leading to several disorders. Smoking cigarettes can spike your chance of getting dementia. Moreover, the toxins present in cigarette can increase the oxidative stress, leading in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
5. Sedentary lifestyle
To prevent Alzheimer's disease, one has to keep the brain active and working with various activities. And, a sedentary lifestyle does not contribute in doing that. Sedentary behaviour is connect to the higher risk of dementia. Lying around all the time is of no help for your body. One has to engage in physical activities for good health.
Consuming excessive sugar and refined carbohydrates can also cause pre-dementia and dementia. A balanced diet is always helpful in providing nutrients to your brain and other parts of the body. It keeps everything regulated and in motion. Therefore, the last 'S' of these factors are sugar.
Diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease
A doctor may do a detailed investigation to do the cognitive functioning of the patient and see how much is the deficit. For a proper diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurologist observes and studies all the symptoms and medical history. The doctor may also ask about your family history to know if there is any genetic factor behind it. They is also a need to conduct a full physical and mental health exam to know about the patient's Alzheimer's stage. Asking various questions to the patient's family and friends can also be helpful in studying a particular case. After this diagnosis, appropriate steps and medicines are given for improvement.
How to treat and prevent Alzheimer's disease?
There is no specific treatment for Alzheimer's as on date. All treatments are only given to improve the quality of life for the patient and make it easier for the care givers. You can prevent dementia by making lifestyle changes. Like you can't change the age or sex of a person as they are non reversible. However, you can change the inherited susceptibility to develop.
So, these were the symptoms, causes, stages, diagnosis and prevention measures of Alzheimer's disease by Dr. Rajiv Anand. You should surely visit a brain specialist if someone in your family is experiencing such signs. Talking about prevention, all the above listed things should be modified in life. If you have a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent a lot of health problems. If you continue to keep yourself socially and mentally active, you have less chances of dementia.
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