What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic and irreversible neuronal degenerative disease that starts gradually and deteriorates over time. It is the number one leading cause of dementia among the elderlies. It can also present among the young adult, a condition known as early-onset Alzheimer’s. Read on to find out how to avoid lifestyle factors linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The precise etiology is unknown, but it is believed to be due to a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Having a very close relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, slightly increases your chances of developing the disease in the future compared to someone with no family history.
There is concrete evidence to support that no specific intervention or measures are effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Avoid Lifestyle Factors Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease
However, certain habits and lifestyle can be modified to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and help you know how to avoid lifestyle factors linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Smoking has long been linked to deaths from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Alzheimer’s is no exception. People who are heavy and active smokers in their mid-adult life are double their chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in their adult life. Quitting cigarette smoking will help decrease your risk.
- Exercise and physical activity: Helps to strengthen your heart muscles to pump blood to the body and brain effectively. Helps the mind to stay sharp and focus. Your cardiologist can help you with exercises appropriate for your level of fitness.
- Head injuries: People who are exposed to repeated trauma to the head are at high risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s in the future. Wear helmets all the time when engaged in contact sports and see a neurologist should you develop any concussion symptoms.
- Alcohol: Alcohol in moderate quantities have a protective effect on dementia. People who drink in excess put themselves at a higher risk. Let’s not forget, alcohol is implicated in brain injuries, cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis and some cancer.
- High cholesterol: Studies have shown that people with low total cholesterol levels in mid-life are less likely to develop dementia in their adult life. Lowering cholesterol levels in the blood can be achieved by using anti-lipidemic drugs like statins. Besides dementia, high cholesterol in the blood is a known cause of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular-related illnesses. Your cardiologist can help you prevent and treat any heart related risk factors.
- A diet rich in vitamins, fruits, vegetables and low in cholesterol should be highly encouraged. Foods rich in flavonoids such as cocoa, red wine, and tea may also lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Join communities and social groups. Interactive and connect with people. This helps to cope with depression due to aging and loneliness.
Some medical conditions are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s. They are Down syndrome, HIV, amyloidosis, chronic kidney disease and multiple sclerosis.
How do I know if I have Alzheimer’s?
Having a loved one living with Alzheimer’s can have a devastating effect on the family and relationships. You might be quick to judge their behavior as a reflection lack of interest. Most of the times, they have no idea they have the disease and assume what they are experiencing is due to stress or the aging process.
The signs and symptoms are grouped into the early, middle and late stage. In the initial stage, they present with memory loss. They forget information they have just recently learned. They forget important dates or events such as date of birth, wedding anniversary. It is not uncommon for them to misplace things such as their car keys or forget where they kept them. They eventually have to rely on memory aids like reminder notes, electronic devices or even the help of family members.
In the moderate stage, they manifest significant behavioral and personality changes. They might become very aggressive, suspicious; they may report seeing or hearing things that are not physically there. Their ability to recall events becomes severely impaired. They resort to fabricating, distorting and misinterpreting up stories and event to compensate for their memory lapses, a condition known as confabulation.
As the disease becomes severe, they lose their ability to communicate coherently. Their ability to use everyday words to construct a meaningful sentence becomes significantly impaired. At this stage, they require assistance from friends and families to carry out normal day to day activities like bathing, eating, using the bathroom and other daily hygienic routines. They may find it hard to walk without assistance or need extra support to sit or stand.
The rate at which the disease progresses varies with individuals. On average, they can live up to eight to ten years after diagnosis.
Complications from pneumonia are one of the causes of death due to aspiration of vomitus and food content into the respiratory tract.
Are there tests to confirm I have Alzheimer’s?
There are currently no tests to completely confirm you have Alzheimer’s; it can only be established during an autopsy, after the patient’s death. Your doctor will conduct series of a laboratory test to rule out other causes of your dementia. A neurological examination will be done to test for reflexes, coordination, memory, balance, sense of sight and smell, and muscle tone. A brain image scan will also be done to detect abnormal brain changes, tumors, stroke or hematoma. It’s best to prevent by finding our how to avoid lifestyle factors linked to Alzheimer’s disease in the first place.
Can my Alzheimer’s be treated?
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs available are used to control the symptoms and are highly dependent on individuals temporarily. These drugs include,
- Cholinesterase inhibitors: This groups of drugs prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurochemical that is released by neurons into the neuromuscular junction and neuronal synaptic junctions. These drugs help to improves symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s such as memory. Donepezil is used in treating all stages of Alzheimer. Rivastigmine and Galantamine also belong to this group and are used to treat mild forms of Alzheimer. Side effects of the drug include nausea, vomiting, change in bowel movement and loss of appetite.
- Memantine is another drug that is currently used. Its mechanism of action is by blocking the effect of glutamate, a neurochemical in the brain. It is used to treat moderate to severe forms of the disease. It is recommended for patients that cannot tolerate acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.
- Anti-depressants: Are used to improve the mood of the patient, but should be used with caution.
Alzheimer’s disease – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350453
Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/10-signs-symptoms-alzheimers-dementia.asp
Risk factors | Alzheimer Society of Canada. (2018). Retrieved from http://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/About-dementia/Alzheimer-s-disease/Risk-factors
Your Brain is Begging You: Stop Smoking! | Cognitive Vitality | Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality/blog/your-brain-is-begging-you-stop-smoking