Most people often associate Alzheimer’s symptoms with memory loss . However, other signs are observed in patients who develop the disease, such as difficulty in expression and concentration, in addition to variations in behavior and personality.
Although Alzheimer’s affects the elderly more, there are records of cases in young people. According to the World Health Organization, 35.6 million people have the disease worldwide – 1.2 million in Brazil. The estimate is that the number will increase to 65 million and 115 million in 2030 and 2050, respectively.
In this article, we cover what Alzheimer’s is, the causes, symptoms, treatment and how to prevent it. Read on!
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive loss of brain cells and nerve connections. The patient in these conditions has impaired cognition and memory, which affects understanding, attention, learning, behavior and language.
The name of this type of dementia refers to the doctor Alois Alzheimer, the first to report the disease , in 1906. His patient, Auguste Deter, was a healthy 51-year-old woman, until she started having problems with memory, language and disorientation. Her brain was studied by the psychiatrist after her death at the age of 55.
Today, it is known that the degeneration and death of cells caused by Alzheimer’s occur in regions of the brain that are essential for us to perform our activities normally. The hippocampus, which controls memory, and the cerebral cortex, responsible for reasoning and abstract thinking, for example, are affected.
What are the causes of the disease?
The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, but researchers have linked the onset of the disease to lifestyle, social environment and genetic components. In general, it affects elderly people, although there are records of cases in young people.
Studies point to brain shrinkage and abnormalities in the affected tissue. The concentration of plaque destroys cells, while tangles prevent the transport of nutrients and other materials essential for proper brain function.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s symptoms are cognitive and behavioral. Find out more about them!
Memory and communication impairment
The loss of recent memories is common in those with Alzheimer’s and worsens with the progression of the disease. The patient begins to forget the names of people close to him and his commitments, to have difficulty expressing himself and finding words for objects, in addition to repeating questions and statements.
Difficulty in reasoning and concentration
Alzheimer’s affects concentration and reasoning, which hinders the performance of daily activities. Dealing with numbers and other abstract concepts becomes unfeasible with disease progression. For this reason, patients are unable to manage their own finances.
Behavior and personality changes
Changes in behavior and personality are characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The patient may have mood swings, become irritable, aggressive and even develop depression . Some start to have delusions and insomnia, tending to be socially withdrawn.
Carelessness with hygiene and appearance
Daily tasks are no longer performed with the disease progression. Bathing, brushing your teeth, combing your hair and dressing are cares that are ignored by patients. This is because they simply do not know how to perform them anymore.
Temporal and spatial disorientation
Losing track of the day and times is another sign seen in people with Alzheimer’s. For this reason, they start to forget the events, even if they are important. In addition, there may be spatial disorientation even in places already known, such as the home itself.
How does this type of dementia evolve?
The gradual worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms is a reflection of its evolution. Understand!
In the beginning, the disease is not always perceived by people or the doctor and is often mistaken as a sign of old age. The patient may vary in behavior, forget recent events, get lost in familiar places and be disoriented in time.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, symptoms are more easily identified. In the intermediate stage, the person has no memory, has sleep disorders , hallucinations and worsens in speech, in addition to getting lost inside and outside the home. She now needs help to perform simple tasks, such as dressing.
Memory disorders are severe in the advanced stage of the disease. Thus, the patient fails to recognize even relatives and close friends, as well as the names of objects used in daily life.
Physical capacity is most seriously affected. At this stage, Alzheimer’s totally impairs communication, hinders swallowing and generates urinary and fecal incontinence. Many people are bedridden or in a wheelchair.
How is Alzheimer’s treatment?
Alzheimer’s treatment is medication and needs to be followed to the letter, according to medical guidelines. The chances of obtaining a good result are much greater when the diagnosis of the disease is made in the early stages.
However, it is important to note that Alzheimer’s has no cure. Therefore, the function of treatment is to decrease or delay the effects of the disease. To do this, medicines are prescribed to help control memory loss and behavioral disorders.
During this period, those who live with the patient should observe whether there has been an improvement in the condition, that is, whether the episodes of forgetfulness have ceased or decreased, noting also whether the day-to-day activities started to be carried out more easily.
Is it possible to prevent the disease?
So far, there are no prevention methods for Alzheimer’s. However, keeping your mind and body always active is an important recommendation to lead a healthy life. Check out some tips to avoid this and other neurodegenerative diseases below.
- have a balanced and healthy diet;
- take care of your mental health through meditation and therapy , for example;
- practice physical activities regularly and under supervision;
- go to the doctor with periodically to assess your health conditions;
- avoid alcoholic beverages and cigarettes;
- invest in leisure and social relationships;
- study and read to keep your mind always active.
If you notice that you have Alzheimer’s symptoms, be sure to see your doctor right away. After all, the success of treatment is much greater when the disease is diagnosed at an early stage. The delay in seeking help will only aggravate the condition more quickly.