What Is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease afflicts approximately 4 million Americans, and is the most common form of cognitive dementia. The cause of Alzheimer's, first described in 1906 by German doctor Alois Alzheimer, is unknown, although some experts attribute it to flawed DNA. Aging is widely accepted as Alzheimer's greatest risk factor—in fact, an estimated 50 percent of Americans over 85 suffer from the illness.
What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimer's disease?
According to WebMD, most patients' symptoms progress slowly over a number of years. Some common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include:
Impaired memory and thinking. Disorientation and confusion. People with Alzheimer's disease may get lost when out on their own and may not be able to remember where they are or how they got there. They may not recognize previously familiar places and situations. Changes in personality and behavior. The person becomes unusually angry, irritable, restless, or quiet. At times, people with Alzheimer's disease can become confused, paranoid, or fearful. Loss of motivation or initiative. The person may become very passive and require prompting to become involved and interact with others. Loss of normal sleep patterns. The person may sleep during the day and be wide-awake at night.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Currently, no definitive diagnostic test for Alzheimer's exists. But it is important to visit a doctor if you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms so you can receive the proper evaluation and diagnosis, according to WebMD. Your doctor can only determine if the symptoms are probably due to Alzheimer's disease after a thorough medical, psychiatric, and neurological evaluation.
What's The Prognosis?
The course of Alzheimer's disease varies widely from person to person. The duration of the illness could be short (2-3 years) or long (up to 20 years). Usually the parts of the brain that control memory and thinking are affected first, but over time, cells die in other areas of the brain.
Can Alzheimer's Be Prevented?
Because the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not known, there is currently nothing that can be done to guarantee its prevention. Staying mentally and physically active, maintaining a normal blood pressure and avoiding head injury by wearing seat belts and helmets may decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer's dementia, according to WebMD. Your doctor can advise you about other healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt that may help prevent dementia.
To Learn More About Alzheimer's Disease:
• The Alzheimer's Foundation of America has additional resources.
• To find a local chapter of Alzheimer's Asssociation, click here.
• The Alliance for Aging Research has educational resources and information for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients.
• The Silver Book is an almanac of hundreds of facts, statistics, graphs, and information from close to 100 agencies, organizations and experts.
• Click here for a fact sheet from the National Institute on Aging and here for tips for caregivers.
• American Federation For Aging Research has additional resources on Alzheimer's.
The Foundation For Health In Aging has research on Alzheimer's.