Notably, Alzheimer’s disease produces significant memory loss and other cognitive function problems that hinder daily living. According to Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative neurologic condition that causes brain cells to die and the brain to shrink, namely atrophy (“Alzheimer’s Disease”). This illness is the most prevalent form of dementia, defined as a progressive decline in cognitive, social, and behavioral abilities that impair a person’s ability to live independently. Consequently, Alzheimer’s disease affects around 5.8 million individuals aged sixty-five and over in the United States (“Alzheimer’s Disease”). Rasmussen and Langerman assert that the evolution of Alzheimer’s disease may be divided into three distinct stages preclinical, moderate cognitive impairment, and dementia; nevertheless, it can be more appropriately characterized using a seven-stage model (124). Each phase represents a different amount of impairment, beginning with no impairment and progressing to very light cognitive decline, moderate cognitive decline, and finally to “very severe cognitive loss” (Rasmussen and Langerman 124). Consequently, each person’s illness progression is unique, but most individuals live between four and eight years after diagnosis.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s disease is among the most frightening old-age disorders. Shock and feelings of denial, wrath, anxiety, pessimism, and sadness are common reactions to a diagnosis (Rasmussen and Langerman 125). The disease’s early symptoms include forgetting recent events or discussions (“Alzheimer’s Disease”). Memory loss, language issues, and impulsive or erratic behavior are all symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (MacGill). A person with Alzheimer’s will acquire significant memory impairment and lose the capacity to perform daily chores as the condition develops (“Alzheimer’s Disease”). As the symptoms grow, people struggle to recall recent events, rationalize, and identify individuals they know (MacGill). The formation of plaques and tangles in the brain is one of the critical characteristics of the illness. Another hallmark is a breakdown in communication between neurons in the brain (MacGill). Thus, information cannot easily flow between different brain sections or from the brain to the organs and muscles.
The disease causes debates among scholars and medical professionals regarding diagnosis. For instance, while experts disagree on whether mild cognitive impairment is genuinely a diagnosis, it is widely agreed that persons demonstrating mild cognitive impairment are at risk of developing dementia in the future (Rasmussen and Langerman 125). Various health conditions and lifestyle habits have been linked to a higher likelihood of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia (Rasmussen and Langerman 125). For instance, they include increasing age, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smoking, overweight, insufficient physical activity, depression, infrequent involvement in intellectually or socially stimulating activities, and the appearance of the APO-E4 gene variant (Rasmussen and Langerman 125). These lifestyle choices may cause disease development and should be modified to prevent it.
Because there are potentially modifiable risk factors, it is feasible to prevent cognitive problems and dementia using a public health strategy. For instance, individuals with risk factors are frequently seen in primary care, allowing healthcare practitioners to question health concerns such as memory difficulties (Rasmussen and Langerman 125). When administered as part of a regular healthcare visit, there is considerable opportunity to identify people with probable mild cognitive impairment in a cost-effective way that does not raise an unnecessary concern or the stigma associated with attending a specialized facility (Rasmussen and Langerman 125). Medications may temporarily help or reduce symptoms’ development (“Alzheimer’s Disease”). They can occasionally assist patients with Alzheimer’s to keep functioning independently for a short period.
Alzheimer’s disease has no actual cure since it is impossible to repair the loss of brain cells. Conversely, treatments can alleviate symptoms and improve the life quality for patients, their relatives, and caretakers (MacGill). For people with Alzheimer’s disease, only two types of pharmacologic treatment are currently available. Weller and Budson acknowledge that for individuals with mild, moderate, or severe phases, “the cholinesterase inhibitors donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine” are indicated therapies (4). Memantine, “a non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist and dopamine agonist,” is licensed for use in individuals with moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease who have trouble with concentration and alertness (Weller and Budson 4). Additionally, Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, especially fish oil, have gained much attention in the last decade because of their cardiovascular advantages (Weller and Budson 4). Thus, controlling cardiovascular risk factors improves overall brain health in both cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease-related emotional and behavioral changes might be challenging to manage. MacGill states that people may become more irritable, depressed, restless, and have difficulty sleeping. Therefore, treating the causal factors of these alterations may be beneficial. Identifying what caused these habits might assist people in dealing with the changes (MacGill). New locations, caregivers, or being requested to bathe or change clothing can all be stressors (MacGill). It is frequently feasible to alter the surroundings to overcome difficulties and improve a person’s relaxation, safety, and psychological comfort.
To conclude, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be treated because the brain loses neurons. Nonetheless, several risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease can be changed by lifestyle modifications (“Alzheimer’s Disease”). Altering one’s diet, physical activity, and habits, which are steps to minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease, may also lessen the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-causing illnesses. There is no cure at the moment, although medications and other therapies are available (MacGill). They can help reduce or relieve neurological and behavioral symptoms and enhance an individual’s overall quality of life.
“Alzheimer’s Disease.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
MacGill, Markus. “What to Know about Alzheimer’s Disease.” Medical News Today, 2020.
Rasmussen, Jill, and Haya Langerman. “Alzheimer’s Disease–Why We Need Early Diagnosis.” Degenerative Neurological and Neuromuscular Disease, vol. 9, 2019, pp. 123-130. doi.org/10.2147/DNND.S228939.
Weller, Jason, and Andrew Budson. “Current Understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis and Treatment.” F1000Research, vol. 7, 2018, pp. 1-9.