Even though there are more women with the disease, a great many men are sufferers as well. When men have Alzheimer’s disease, they often experience poor memory, an inability to think clearly, behavioral changes, and an inability to perform activities of daily living.
While there are other causes of dementia besides Alzheimer’s disease, it is considered the leading cause of dementia in the elderly.
Statistically, about 5.2 million Americans, both men and women, were diagnosed with the disease each year. The vast majority are older than 65 years.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia
When a person gets Alzheimer’s disease, their memory, and thinking are affected. The synapses, which are the connection points for nerve cells, begin to deteriorate and the brain cells die off.
Plaques form in the brain and the brain develops neurofibrillary tangles that interfere with the normal signaling processes of the brain. Exactly how these structures form in the brain and their purpose has yet to be discovered.
Alzheimer’s disease is divided up into three different stages:
· Stage I – This is mild dementia in which the patient has a loss of memory but can still function in most familiar settings
· Stage 2 – This is moderate dementia in which the patient has more severe symptoms and needs help in many aspects of daily living
· Stage 3 – This is severe dementia in which the patient needs total care and does not recognize relatives nor do they know where they are most of the time
Stage 1 Alzheimer’s dementia
In stage 1 disease, the patient suffers from occasional memory loss and behavioral changes such as mood swings. Their energy level is depleted and they have a slower reaction time. Confusion can be part of this stage of dementia and there is difficulty in doing simple, everyday tasks. These people can become lost and cannot find their way home. They have problems paying their bills and often cannot manage their finances. They repeat stories or questions they have said before, even in the context of the same conversation.
These people do not have good judgment and have difficulty finding things they have set down because they put them in unusual places. Behavioral changes include frequent anger outbursts, feelings of frustration, and feelings of being withdrawn from others. People in mild dementia tend to have this stage for up to four years.
Stage 2 Alzheimer’s dementia
The person with stage 2 disease can still participate in some activities of daily living but need help if the activity is too complex. Short term and long-term memory begin to decline so that there is more disorientation and disconnection from what is real. Past memories get confused with present memories and they may have difficulty-recognizing people they should know. This stage tends to last about 2-10 years.
Stage 3 Alzheimer’s Dementia
In this stage, the individual loses the ability to speak clearly and cannot feed himself or herself. They rarely recognize people they should know, even close family members. Memory is completely lost and they need total care, usually in a nursing facility. This stage lasts about 1-3 years.
The Diagnosis Of Alzheimer ’S Disease
When Alzheimer’s disease is suspected, you should see a doctor for evaluation. The doctor will take a thorough medical history and will decide if there is another health problem that is contributing to the symptoms. A family member may be able to give a history of the patient’s behaviors and changes in personality. Neuropsychological testing can then be done to evaluate the patient’s abilities. CT scanning and MRI scanning can sometimes reveal changes in the brain consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.
Treatment Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s dementia has no cure but there are medications available on the market that can slow the progression of the disease, especially when given early. These medications are not terribly successful, however, because they only improve symptoms by about 6-12 months.
Half of the people who try these medications will show no improvement. The best treatment is to have capable nursing staff, social workers, and doctors who can help you and the family with caring for the patient with Alzheimer’s disease.
Prevention Of Alzheimer’s Disease
There seems to be ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from happening. Doing things that also prevent heart disease also seem to have an impact on Alzheimer’s disease. This includes lowering cholesterol, decreasing high blood pressure, reducing obesity, and increasing mental and physical activity.
A low fat diet rich in vegetables and fruit can help reduce the risk of dementia. Activities that stimulate the mind have been known to prevent or delay the onset of the disease.