Alzheimer’s Disease

As our population ages, the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease increases. In Canada, currently half a million people have the disease. That means 1 in 11 people over the age of 65 are affected by Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. In people with the disease, toxic “plaques” and “tangles” build up in nerves causing them to die.

What causes Alzheimer’s disease?

Researchers have been unable to determine a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. There is a genetic component to the development of the dis-ease. Therefore if you have a parent with Alzheimer’s disease you are more likely to develop the condition yourself. Researchers have been trying to investigate if Alzheimer’s could be caused by a toxin or a virus however, no conclusion has been made in this area. It is currently thought that Alzheimer’s is caused by a number of factors combined.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

Many people may worry that they may have Alzheimer’s if they are forgetful. However, forgetfulness is simply one symptom of the disease. Here are 10 warning signs that you or someone you love may be developing the disease:

  • Memory loss affected day-to-day function
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks (such as making dinner)
  • Problems with language or speech
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgment
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative

Depression causes symptoms that closely resemble those listed above. If someone you know is experiencing these symptoms they should see a physician for a diagnosis as soon as possible.

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

While there is not one particular therapy to prevent Alzheimer’s, it is thought that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping physically and mentally fit, as well as socially active can help prevent the disease.

How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made up of multiple components. Doctors will use a combination of symptoms, mental status exam, physical exam, lab tests and possibly a scan of the brain in order to diagnose the disease. Doctor’s must rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as depression.

Can Alzheimer’s disease be cured?

Researchers are still searching for a cure for this debilitating disease. While there is currently no cure, there are medications that can slow the progression of the disease. It is important that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made early. The earlier that treatment is started, the more effective it is in slowing the progression of the disease.

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