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Learn More About Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly damages and ultimately destroys brain cells, leading to the loss of memory and thinking skills and even the ability to carry out simple daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is not part of the normal aging process. It develops gradually over time and progressively gets worse as more brain cells die. Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease is fatal, and presently, there is no cure.
There is an estimated 5.4 million American’s currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the most common form of dementia – a general term for a group of brain disorders that causes a loss of cognitive functioning and affects memory, judgment, personality and reasoning to such an extent that it can interfere with activities of daily life. Currently, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for approximately 50 to 80 percent of total dementia cases.
5.4 Million Americans Live with
Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease remains unknown; however, most experts agree that the disease develops as a result of multiple factors, over a long period of time. The greatest risk factors are increasing age, family history and genetics. Most Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are over the age of 65. Research has also shown that individuals who have a family member with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease, and if more than one family member has Alzheimer’s disease, the risk increases.
Additionally, there are several characteristic brain abnormalities found in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Plaques and tangles are irregular deposits of proteins in the brain that can cause neurons to function less efficiently. Additionally, the loss of connections among brain cells that are responsible for memory, learning and communication is also common. Over time, neurons lose the ability to function and communicate with each other, and ultimately, the neurons die, causing brain tissue to shrink. In the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the damage is extensive and brain tissue has shrunk drastically, affecting virtually all of its functions.
Research also suggests, however, that there are factors other than age and genetics that play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Growing evidence points to overall wellness and positive lifestyle choices as a way to keep your brain, as well as your body, healthy. Physical and social activities, as well as maintaining a healthy diet, are all factors that can lead to an overall healthy life – and possibly reduce the risk of cognitive decline – as people age.
Experts in Alzheimer’s disease have identified various stages of the disease to explain how a person’s cognitive abilities will change throughout the stages of Alzheimer’s.
Mild Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, changes in memory and cognitive abilities are noticeable. Problems in this stage may include forgetfulness of recent events, difficulty in handling finances and paying bills, or simply taking longer to complete daily activities. People with Alzheimer’s disease in this early stage may also be forgetful about their own personal history or have mood/personality changes, especially during socially challenging situations.
Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease
Damage to the brain is more widespread at this stage and affects areas that are responsible for language, reasoning, sensory processing and conscious thought. Gaps in memory and confusion are noticeable, and individuals may require help with daily tasks. Those in this stage of the disease may also become confused about what day of the week it is or what time it is, begin to have trouble recognizing family and friends, or need help dressing appropriately.
Severe Alzheimer’s Disease
By the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain is damaged extensively. Individuals in this stage are completely dependent upon others for their care and experience significant personality and behavioral changes, which may include suspiciousness and delusions. They cannot communicate appropriately, lose awareness of the environment and, eventually, lose the ability to react to their surroundings.
We believe people with Alzheimer’s disease are remarkable people who have led remarkable lives.