Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease causes the loss of brain cells over time, which leads to a decline in memory, thinking and behavior. It is the most common cause of progressive dementia. Initial symptoms most commonly appear around the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease that appears sooner is called "early onset Alzheimer’s".

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 earliest symptoms are forgetting new information, such as recent events or conversations. In addition, 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.

Symptoms include:

  • 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.

Sentara Neuroscience Institute is involved in many clinical trials as part of our commitment to improving the lives of patients with neurological disorders. These may occasionally include clinical trials related to Alzheimer’s 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