Alzheimer's Disease: What You Should Know

Get the facts about Alzheimer’s, including what causes it, symptoms, and how it’s treated.

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How to Ward Off Alzheimer’s Disease (2:51)

 If you think you, or a loved one, has Alzheimer’s, a slowly progressive brain disease that affects memory, thinking and behavior, it’s normal to be worried. We’ve broken down the basics to help you better understand the condition, so you can get the help you need.

Causes

Typically, Alzheimer’s affects people ages 65 and older. But, approximately five percent of people develop early-onset Alzheimer’s between 30 to 60 years of age.

A concrete cause of Alzheimer’s hasn’t been identified yet, but experts believe a combination of aging, genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors are to blame. A genetic mutation is believed to be the cause of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

While it’s not always the case, older folks with mild cognitive impairment have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Symptoms

Alzheimer’s affects everybody differently, but memory issues and a decline of basic cognitive functions like reasoning and judgment are generally the first signs of the disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s move through stages and include mild, moderate and severe Alzheimer’s. A person with early-stage, or mild, Alzheimer’s is still able to function independently, but he or she may have trouble remembering certain words or where everyday objects are located. Signs of mild Alzheimer’s include:

  • Problems remembering common words or names
  • Wandering off and getting lost
  • Difficulty handling money
  • Trouble planning, organizing and performing regular tasks
  • Repeating questions

Moderate Alzheimer’s tends to last the longest and bring on the most changes. Signs include:

  • Greater memory loss, including forgetting one’s past and trouble recognizing family and friends
  • Problems learning how to do new things
  • Confusion about where they are or what day it is
  • Difficulty carrying out multi-step tasks
  • Mood, personality and behavior changes, including being suspicious, delusional, compulsive or repetitive
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and being up at night

People with severe, or late-stage, Alzheimer’s lose the ability to respond to their surroundings, to communicate and, eventually, to control movement, such as walking and swallowing. They are totally dependent on a caregiver and require round-the-clock care.

Article written by Sharecare
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