Forgetfulness is not always a sign of Alzheimer’s: the disease can be confused with dementia, which also affects memory due to a dysfunction of the brain. The difference is that Alzheimer’s disease is a degeneration of neurons, and can affect behavior, speech and appetite. It is estimated that around 44 million people worldwide suffer from the disease.
Alzheimer’s is more common in the elderly and appears from the age of 65, but there are early cases in which the first symptoms of the disease appear at age 30, usually caused by hereditary factors. That is, who has cases of Alzheimer’s in the family needs to be aware of the symptoms to start treatment as soon as possible and control the disease more effectively.
Some researchers believe that the disease happens due to genetic factors, lifestyle and environment. Despite having no proven causes, the development of Alzheimer’s can be delayed with some treatments.
It’s not just the memory!
“The patient loses the ability to do things he did before”, explains Dr. Lais Helena Silva Santos, geriatrician and gerontologist at the NotreDame Intermédica Group, who gives the example of the film “Para Semper Alice” in which the protagonist is “a teacher of linguistics that begins to forget words ”. However, in addition to failures in memory, the carrier of the disease suffers from difficulty in communication, changes in reasoning, blurred vision, changes in mood, confusion and disorientation.
Diagnosis and treatment
There are no tests to detect Alzheimer’s; a clinical analysis of the patient is usually performed. “The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is made through a study of the patient’s history”. The specialist says that monitoring is essential to understand the stages of the disease: “The most important thing is to assess the patient’s functionality”.
It is important to start treatment immediately, according to the needs of each person. Only a specialist can recommend medications for behavioral disorders or specific issues. Therefore, it is important that the person does not self-medicate.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
The disease has four stages. In the first, there is loss of memory and changes in personality. The second is presented as a “moderate form” and it is when difficulties in speech or in performing simple tasks begin. Then comes the severe stage, with urinary and fecal incontinence, in addition to the difficulty in eating. In the terminal stage, the patient does not get up, does not speak, feels pain when eating and has frequent infections.
“The latest studies we have on the subject prove that physical exercise, Mediterranean diet and healthy habits in general help a lot in prevention”, says Laís. In addition, some exercises and cognitive stimulation, reading and films are also actions seen as possible aids.