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Alzheimer’s disease is a neurocognitive disorder that is the most common cause of dementia; it accounts for 60 to 80% of cases of dementia in the elderly. In the United States, it is estimated that 10% of people are over 65 and suffer from Alzheimer’s. The percentage of people with Alzheimer’s disease increases with age.

The disease is twice as common in women than in men, which is partly due to the longer life expectancy of women. The prevalence of the number of patients in developed countries is associated with an increase in the proportion of elderly people in them.

Causes of the disease

To date, science knows two main reasons for the development of this disease:

  1. The destruction of neural connections. Nerve tissue forms the nervous system of the brain and spinal cord, which provides the interaction between the tissues, organs and systems of our body. Nerve tissue consists of neuron cells that are connected by processes to transmit information to each other, they form a single network. As a result of brain activity, a pathological beta-amyloid protein is formed, which is normally produced and removed, but for reasons unknown to science, the moment comes when this protein ceases to be removed, its concentration increases, and it blocks (destroys) neural connections. The transmission of information and communication of neurons cease. The functions of the higher nervous activity of the brain (such as memory, spatial orientation, recognition of the forms of objects, the ability to learn, live in a world of their kind (socialization) and the ability to serve oneself) begin to be disrupted. An increase in the concentration of pathological beta-amyloid protein is perceived by the body as an invasion of the “alien”. An autoimmune inflammatory process begins, and the cells of our immune system (macrophages) additionally destroy, as they think, the enemy – the neurons. It turns out a double blow: both neural connections and the neurons are destroyed.
  2. Brain cells cannot fully nourish and dry out. Neurons, like any other cells, receive nutrition from the intercellular space for their vital functions. Metabolic processes take place inside the cell, substances are processed, but there comes a time when the tau protein, which is part of the neuron, becomes toxic and begins to interfere with the spread of nutrients inside the cell, some reactions do not go, the cell cannot fully exist and eventually dies. From these processes, the brain begins to “dry out” and decrease in size, which leads to the loss of many of its functions.

Alzheimer’s disease risk factors

Although we still don’t know all the reasons why some people have Alzheimer’s disease, research has made it possible to better understand what factors make people more vulnerable to the disease.

First signs of the disease

First of all, short-term memory suffers. Complaints of elderly people about forgetfulness, requests for the same information several times are quite typical both for age-related features of the functioning of the brain and for the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease. In the presence of the disease, forgetfulness increases, it becomes difficult to process new information, remember not only the location of familiar things but also the names of relatives, one’s age, basic information.

The second symptom of the early stage of the disease is apathy. The interest in the usual forms of pastime is reduced, it becomes more difficult to engage in your favorite hobby, to leave your house for a walk, to meet friends. Apathy comes to the loss of hygiene skills: patients cease to brush their teeth, wash, change clothes.

Common symptoms include speech impairment, starting with an attempt to recall a familiar word and ending with a complete inability to understand the heard, read and the speech itself, isolation, distance from loved ones, spatial orientation disorders: difficulty finding out places, losing the way home, etc.

In men, the state of apathy is often replaced or alternated with increased aggression, provocative acts, and violations of sexual behavior.

Often, early diagnosis of the disease is impossible, since the patients themselves are not aware of the symptoms of the pathological process or attribute them to the effects of fatigue, stress. One of the common mistakes at this stage is attempts to “relieve stress and relax” with alcohol: alcohol-containing drinks significantly accelerate the death of brain cells and cause an increase in symptoms.

Treatment options

Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to cure a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists fail to come to a common opinion about its cause; they discuss various hypotheses but have not created a final theory. This seriously complicates the search for medicinal and other treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

The fight against the disease has become today one of the most important public health problems worldwide (in connection with the aging of the world’s population). More than one billion US dollars are allocated for its solution. Large pharmaceutical companies, associations and foundations, as well as governments of developed countries, participate in the financing.

What treatment for Alzheimer’s is available today? Existing treatment does not eliminate the causes of the disease, but allows solving two important problems: slow down the degenerative process and reduce the severity of symptoms associated with this process. In addition, it is designed to help the body withstand some factors leading to the death of neurons.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease includes the following components:

Alzheimer’s disease prevention

Can Alzheimer’s be prevented? Experts agree that in the vast majority of cases, this disease, like other chronic diseases, probably develops as a result of complex interactions between various factors, including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle and associated diseases.

Factors such as age or genes cannot be changed, however, everything else can be minimized to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The main objective of the preventive steps is to improve cognitive processes, contribute to the construction of new neural connections in the brain.

What to do if you suspect Alzheimer’s

The first thing is to contact your family doctor and describe all the symptoms that worry you. The doctor will ask you additional questions and, perhaps, offer to take a series of tests – urine, blood (including thyroid hormones). Some signs of impending dementia are similar to symptoms of other diseases – endocrine disorders, depression, anemia – and here it is important not to confuse them.

If a doctor confirms your suspicions, you will receive a referral to a neurologist. A narrow-field specialist will evaluate your condition and offer the most suitable preventive measures. Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely prevent Alzheimer’s disease. But you can suspend its development.