Alzheimer’s: Are Your Parents At Risk?Login to Health October 3, 2017 Brain Diseases 752 Views
You might have noticed, in your conversations with your grandparents or parents that sometimes, they tend to forget certain things, and usually laugh it off as a normal phenomenon pertaining to their age. This is true, because as we grow older, we tend to lose our abilities to function efficiently. Bodily functions begin to deteriorate, be it sensory, motor or cognitive functions. These changes are natural and almost everyone goes through it. However, if memory loss becomes so apparent that it starts interrupting with their day to day life and activities, chances are that they may be at a risk of having a condition known as Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder that produces loss of memory and confusion. It is the most common form of dementia and affects people in the ages of 60-65 and above. In Alzheimer’s, symptoms develop gradually over a period of time, the most common symptoms being memory loss, decline in cognitive and intellectual abilities and impaired judgment. Alzheimer’s starts of as usual forgetfulness. Initially, a loss of recent, short term memories is more apparent. They may perform certain routine activities (like eating, grocery shopping) and forget that they did those at all, or might forget to do them in the first place. You may also notice that they have difficulties in continuing conversations, they might not be able to recall certain words or may lose track of the conversation. As the disease progresses, they might have trouble recalling long term memories such as their own name and other personal details. They may also start forgetting their close relatives, even their own children or spouse. They are usually in a confused, hazed state, may be unable to speak legibly and are highly detached. In the final stages of the disease, they may lose control of their muscles (loss of motor functions) and are bedridden.
Information in the brain is communicated through a network of nerve cells called neurons. In neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, these neurons degenerate and die as a result of a build up of a protein called beta amyloid precursor (APP). Abnormalities of the Tau protein can cause tangles in the nerve bodies which makes it difficult to communicate information and eventually death of the nerve cells. The death of neurons can also lead to a stunted production of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, causing further deterioration. Genetic factors may also be responsible for the incidence of this disease.
Alzheimer’s is difficult to diagnose as there are no conclusive tests present at this moment, majorly because we have not been determined what to look for yet. The doctor may suggest some tests to rule out the possibility of other diseases before considering Alzheimer’s, however a test to confirm Alzheimer’s has not been found. There are no evident early signs, as the onset begins quite late in life, and symptoms usually start showing up after the brain has already suffered significant damage.
Some techniques to help Alzheimer’s patients
Although we have some clarity on the physical changes in the brain, what causes or triggers these changes is still unknown. This makes treatment for the disease difficult to achieve. Some attempts at treatments have been devised to stop, prevent or reverse this process, but they have all proven to be ineffective. Certain therapeutic techniques, such Cognitive Fitness and Innovative therapies may help the patient. These do not focus on curing the disease, rather, focus on making lifestyle changes that may slow the disease and help participants improve their level of cognitive fitness.
Alzheimer’s can be a difficult disease to survive with, not only for the patient, but also for their loved ones. If you see a presence of the symptoms in your parents or grandparents, it is advisable to get a diagnosis from a neurologist as it would help in preparing for the disease better. The life expectancy for people with Alzheimer’s is usually eight to ten years post diagnosis. However, some patients may be able to survive longer.