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Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's Disease

Published on October 6, 2020

Answers provided by Dr. Asma Malik, a neurologist with the Phelps Health Medical Group and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior and accounts for 80% of all dementia types. The disease affects approximately 10% of people age 65 and older and increases to around 40% for patients 85 and older.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

According to the CDC, people with one or more of these 10 symptoms should see a provider for further evaluation:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relations
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgement
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

What are the stages of Alzheimer’s disease?

Every patient and disease course is different. The following are the main stages of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Preclinical - Alzheimer's disease begins long before any symptoms become apparent. During the preclinical stage, there are no noticeable symptoms. This stage can go unnoticed for years, but new imaging technologies can identify deposits of a protein called amyloid-beta that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. People at this stage are still able to carry out daily activities almost 100% normally.
  • Mild dementia – People with mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s experience memory loss of recent events, difficulty with problem-solving or sound judgments, changes in personality, challenges organizing and expressing thoughts, and getting lost or misplacing items.
  • Moderate dementia – During the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s disease, people experience greater memory loss, need help with some daily activities, show increasingly poor judgment and deepening confusion, and also may begin to show significant changes in personality and behavior.
  • Severe dementia – At this stage of Alzheimer’s disease, people generally experience a decline in physical abilities, such as being unable to walk without assistance. Also, people lose the ability to communicate in complete thoughts and may require daily assistance with personal care.

Are women more at risk of Alzheimer’s disease than men?

Although no definitive cause has been found for Alzheimer’s disease, there are theories that suggest women are more at risk. As women age and go through menopause, levels of estrogen in the body decline, which could result in an uptick in disease risk. Also, because women tend to live longer, their level of disease risk increases with age.

Are young adults at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease?

Early-onset dementia can happen, but those cases comprise less than 10% of all cases. Genetic factors can play a role in early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. For example, if a person has a first-degree relative such as a parent or a sibling who has Alzheimer’s disease, their disease risk will be higher than someone who does not have a first-degree relative with the disease.

Is Alzheimer’s disease preventable?

While Alzheimer’s disease is not preventable, diet and exercise can help support overall brain health and diminish the chances of developing the disease.

Talk to a Provider

Knowing when to make an appointment for a loved one who may have Alzheimer’s disease is hard. Talking with a provider can be a great first step to understanding the disease and learning how to provide proper support and care.

 

Call (573) 458-3350 to schedule your appointment today.

 

Visit https://www.alz.org/ to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease.

Found in: Neurology