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Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the gradual deterioration of brain cells, which gets worse with time. Degeneration of brain cells results into loss of memory as well as loss of social and intellectual skills. The condition can become so severe that it may start to interfere with day to day activities of the individual. The speed at which the cells start to deteriorate varies from person-to-person. The faster they deteriorate, the sooner the condition worsens.

Alzheimer’s disease kills brain cells, and as a result, all other body parts are adversely affected. The patient of Alzheimer’s disease generally has a shorter life span than a healthy person. However, the patient may live for up to 3 to 20 years after diagnosis and death may occur due to failure of body organs or infections.

A combination of genes, environment factors, and lifestyle can trigger Alzheimer’s disease. While this stands true in most of the cases, less than 5% cases are a result of specific genetic changes that guarantees development of this disease. What exactly causes this illness is yet to be discovered, but the effects and complications are pretty clear.

Risk factors
Although it is not a usual sign of the ageing process, the probability of getting affected by Alzheimer’s disease increases with age. Studies show that after the age of 65, your chances of developing this disease doubles about every five years. More than 50% of people over the age of 85 suffer from it.

Genetics and family history
If a close blood relative, such as brother, sister, or parent has developed Alzheimer’s, the possibility of you developing it increases many folds.

Women live longer than men and because of that they are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than men.

There are certain evidences which suggest that the factors that cause damage to the heart, may also increase the risk of development of Alzheimer’s. The factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes

During the initial stages of Alzheimer’s, you may experience increasing forgetfulness and mild confusion. As the disease progresses, the symptoms may include:

  • Severe memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Losing interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Trouble performing basic tasks
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Forgetting routes
  • Difficulty finding right words for the objects and emotions
  • Trouble making judgements and decisions
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Increasing stubbornness
  • Irritability
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Mood swings
  • Distrust in others

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The existing treatments aim at slowing down the progress of the illness and managing behaviour problems. Two types of drugs, 1) Cholinesterase inhibitors, and 2) Memantine are used for this purpose. Cholinesterase inhibitors help by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical believed to be important for memory and thinking. The side effect of such kind of drug include vomiting, nausea, and diarrhoea. Memantine drugs are used to treat the brain cells network and may also be used with cholinesterase inhibitors. Anxiety and dizziness are the main side effects of this drug.

There is no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease but there are certain measures you can take to avoid this illness. Again, these measures are not proven, but they are worth a try, especially if you have a history of Alzheimer’s disease in the family.

  • Consume low-fat diet
  • Stay mentally, physically, and socially active
  • Eat cold-water fish 2-3 times a week
  • Keep your blood pressure in control
  • Include food items rich in antioxidants

By the age of 60 years, around 60% of men and 40% of women start snoring