Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away (degenerate) and die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that disrupts a person’s ability to function independently.
The early signs of the disease may be forgetting recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. An early sign of the disease is usually difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairments worsen and other symptoms develop.
A professor of population Health and Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, United States of America, Gbenga Ogedegbe, has urged patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to engage in regular exercise and to eat healthy foods to improve their condition.
Prof. Ogedegbe said this at a lecture organised by the Gabi-Williams Alzheimer’s Foundation to mark World Alzheimer’s Day, which is scheduled to hold on September 21. The theme of the lecture was, How to reduce the risk of dementia.
He described Alzheimer’s disease as a dangerous disease that affects the brain, disrupts the patient’s cognitive function, causes the progressive death of brain cells and heavily inflicting memory loss on the patients. Ogedegbe said:
“Although there is no definite cure yet for Alzheimer’s disease, but scientific evidence indicates that the risk of the disease can be reduced by regular exercise, eating healthy foods, fruits and vegetables, as well as staying socially active and regularly getting a good night sleep.”
The professor of Population Health and Medicine expressed concern on the increased prevalence of dementia in Nigeria and its huge burden to patients, caregivers and the health care system. He added:
“Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting around 50 million people globally. Nearly 10 million new cases of the disease are being diagnosed every year.
The disease has been identified as a major cause of disability and dependency among older people. It has become a severe economic burden on societies as a whole with the cost of caring for people with dementia estimated to rise to two trillion dollars annually.”
At first, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may be aware of having difficulty with remembering things and organizing thoughts. A family member or friend may be more likely to notice how the symptoms worsen.
Brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease lead to growing trouble with:
Everyone has occasional memory lapses. It’s normal to lose track of where you put your keys or forget the name of an acquaintance. But the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and worsens, affecting the ability to function at work or at home.
People with Alzheimer’s may:
- Repeat statements and questions over and over
- Forget conversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later
- Routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations
- Get lost in familiar places
- Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects
- Have trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or take part in conversations
Thinking and reasoning
Alzheimer’s disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts such as numbers.
Multitasking is especially difficult, and it may be challenging to manage finances, balance checkbooks and pay bills on time. These difficulties may progress to an inability to recognize and deal with numbers.
Making judgments and decisions
The ability to make reasonable decisions and judgments in everyday situations will decline. For example, a person may make poor or uncharacteristic choices in social interactions or wear clothes that are inappropriate for the weather. It may be more difficult to respond effectively to everyday problems, such as food burning on the stove or unexpected driving situations.
Planning and performing familiar tasks
Once-routine activities that require sequential steps, such as planning and cooking a meal or playing a favorite game, become a struggle as the disease progresses. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer’s may forget how to perform basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.
Changes in personality and behavior
Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect moods and behaviors. Problems may include the following:
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Distrust in others
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Loss of inhibitions
- Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen
Many important skills are preserved for longer periods even while symptoms worsen. Preserved skills may include reading or listening to books, telling stories and reminiscing, singing, listening to music, dancing, drawing, or doing crafts.
These skills may be preserved longer because they are controlled by parts of the brain affected later in the course of the disease.
When to see a doctor
A number of conditions, including treatable conditions, can result in memory loss or other dementia symptoms. If you are concerned about your memory or other thinking skills, talk to your doctor for a thorough assessment and diagnosis.
If you are concerned about thinking skills you observe in a family member or friend, talk about your concerns and ask about going together to a doctor’s appointment.