Learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease, the nation’s only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented

Many of us have witnessed the older adults we’ve known all our lives—grandparents, aunts and uncles—forget our names and who we are. In late stages, our loved ones don’t remember how to complete basic tasks such as dressing, grooming, paying bills or driving a vehicle.

It is a painful experience, and difficult to understand.

Researchers are working to understand what is happening in the brain that causes dementia, especially Alzheimer’s Disease, a form of dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association wants people to discuss better Alzheimer’s Disease in June during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.

Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. It is also the only leading cause of death that is not preventable.

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for help with basic activities of daily living.

According to the National Institute on Aging, the causes of dementia can vary, depending on the types of brain changes that may be taking place. Other dementias include Lewy body dementiafrontotemporal disorders, and vascular dementia. It is common for people to have mixed dementia — a combination of two or more types of dementia. For example, some people simultaneously can have Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Changes in the brain could begin as early as a decade or more before any symptoms appear.

During this early stage of Alzheimer’s, toxic changes are taking place in the brain, including abnormal plaque buildup and tangles. Neuron connections stop functioning and die, damaging parts of the brain that forms memories.

In its final stage of Alzheimer’s, brain damage is widespread and brain tissue has significantly shrunk.

Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Memory issues typically are one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s. Some people with memory issues have a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). With MCI, people have more memory loss than normal for their age, but their symptoms typically don’t interfere with their everyday activities.

Trouble with movement or sense of smell have been linked to MCI and older people with MCI are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s can vary, but some of the earliest signs are cognition such finding the words, vision issues and difficult reasoning and judgement.

As Alzheimer’s disease worsens, people have increased memory loss and other difficulties such as getting lost, repeating questions, completing normal daily tasks, and personality and behavior changes. People often are diagnosed during this stage.

In moderate and severe stages, people can lose the ability to reason, become confused and unable to recognize family and friends. They may also become delusional, paranoid and behave impulsively.

At worse, people with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to function or communicate. At the end of life, they remain in bed as the body is shutting down.

One of the great mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease is why it primarily affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question.

Although controversial, new medications to treat the neurodegenerative disease are emerging, such as Aduhelm.

If you or a loved one is experiencing memory problems, difficulty reasoning or experiencing confusion, the first step is to see your primary care doctor for a full physical examination and diagnostic testing to evaluate brain function.

Follow up may be needed with a neurologist for additional testing and recommendations for treatment.









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