Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population, it can occur before the age of 65. This is referred to as "early onset dementia."
In some cases, people suffering from the condition may need to eventually reside in a long-term care facility where they can receive 24/7 care.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
The Alzheimer's Association has developed a checklist of 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease to help determine if memory loss is a serious health concern.
- Memory loss
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Problems with language
- Disorientation to time and place
- Poor or decreased judgment
- Problems with abstract thinking
- Misplacing things
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Changes in personality
- Loss of initiative
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
Many conditions, including some that are treatable or reversible (such as depression, adverse drug reactions, metabolic changes and nutritional deficiencies) can cause the symptoms of dementia. For this reason, early and thorough evaluation is important to rule out other conditions that have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
An early, accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease also helps patients and their families plan for the future. It gives them time to discuss care options while the patient can still take part in making decisions.
A firm diagnosis of Alzheimer's involves a comprehensive evaluation requiring several tests and examinations, including:
- A review of medical history
- Mental status tests
- Physical exam
- Neurological exam and brain imaging using an MRI, CT scan or PET scan.
Managing Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are no treatments, drugs or pills that can prevent Alzheimer's disease. However, early diagnosis offers the best chance to treat the symptoms of the disease.
Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
While there is no treatment for this cognitive disorder, people can take some steps that may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s. These include:
- Lowering cholesterol and homocysteine levels
- Lowering high blood pressure levels
- Controlling diabetes
- Exercising regularly
- Engaging in activities that stimulate the mind
A healthy diet is important. Although no special diets or nutritional supplements have been found to prevent or reverse Alzheimer's disease, a balanced diet helps maintain overall good health.