It is estimated that over 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, making this health condition the most commonly diagnosed form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease typically affects adults 65 years and older, impacting not only those diagnosed but also their family members and loved ones. This article will provide helpful information on Alzheimer’s disease, giving you more insight into this prevalent condition.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not yet fully understood, but probably include a combination of:
- Age-related changes in the brain, like shrinking, inflammation, blood vessel damage, and breakdown of energy within cells, which may harm neurons and affect other brain cells.
- Changes or differences in genes, which may be passed down by a family member. Both types of Alzheimer’s — the very rare early-onset type occurring between age 30 and mid-60s, and the most common late-onset type occurring after a person’s mid-60s — can be related to a person’s genes in some way. Many people with Down syndrome, a genetic condition, will develop Alzheimer’s as they age and may begin to show symptoms in their 40s.
- Health, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may play a role, such as exposure to pollutants, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
Memory problems are often one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s. Symptoms vary from person to person, and may include problems with:
- Word-finding, or having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age.
- Vision and spatial issues, like awareness of the space around them.
- Impaired reasoning or judgment, which can impact decisions.
Other symptoms may be changes in the person’s behavior, including:
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
- Repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Wandering and getting lost.
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places.
- Mood and personality changes.
- Increased anxiety and/or aggression.
How Is Alzheimer’s Diagnosed and Treated?
Doctors may ask questions about health, conduct cognitive tests, and carry out standard medical tests to determine whether to diagnose a person with Alzheimer’s disease. If a doctor thinks a person may have Alzheimer’s, they may refer the person to a specialist, such as a neurologist, for further assessment. Specialists may conduct additional tests, such as brain scans or lab tests of spinal fluid, to help make a diagnosis. These tests measure signs of the disease, such as changes in brain size or levels of certain proteins.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, though there are several medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that can help manage some symptoms of the disease along with coping strategies to manage behavioral symptoms. In 2021, FDA provided accelerated approval for a new medication, aducanumab, that targets the protein beta-amyloid, which accumulates abnormally in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. The new medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits, but has not yet been shown to affect clinical symptoms or outcomes, such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care at San Simeon
At San Simeon by the Sound, we have an interdisciplinary team of trained, licensed staff members who care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Our patient-centered approach helps ensure all residents are provided with everything they need to maintain the highest possible quality of life.