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Alzheimer’s by Lina Palazzolo

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Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease that affects the brain and is a form of dementia.  The symptoms of Alzheimer’s start slow and then progress to more severe symptoms over time.  The cause of this disease is nerve cells in the brain that begin to slowly shrink and eventually die, causing damage to the memory and mental status of a person suffering from the illness.  Alzheimer’s affects a person’s ability to care for themselves daily.  It affects their social skills and their ability to make simple decisions on their own.  There is currently no cure for this disease but there are medications available that can slow the progression of the disease and assist with short-term memory.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s can vary from person to person.  Some sources outline Alzheimer’s in seven stages.  This may be inconsistent because many of the symptoms listed in each stage overlap with the next stage.  It is easier to refer to a more generalized guide as mild, moderate, and severe stages.  The first symptom that may be apparent that Alzheimer’s is beginning is a person showing signs of forgetfulness and confusion.  An example of a mild symptom would be a person not finding their way around in their own home or another very familiar place.  Another symptom would be a person showing a lack of interest in things or not wanting to pay attention to events going on around them.

In the moderate stage, the symptoms of confusion increase with the addition of needing assistance to take care of themselves.  For example, a person might begin to walk off aimlessly in search of a particular place but with no sense of direction.  When this happens, it is no longer safe for a person with Alzheimer’s to be left alone or unsupervised.  A person may also begin to forget personal information about themselves, such as their phone number, address, and age.  People in the moderate stage may also need help with personal hygiene and going to the bathroom.  A person’s behavior begins to change as well.  They may begin to become suspicious that people are taking things from them or they can also become physical by kicking and hitting.  In the severe stage of Alzheimer’s, the mental and physical capacity is drastically lowered.  A person in this stage cannot speak in a conversation setting.  They can no longer take care of themselves and need complete assistance with eating, bathing, and getting dressed.  In the severe stage, a person may no longer be able to walk or even sit up alone.  A person will gradually lose enough muscle function that they will no longer be able to swallow food.  At this point a person can die from pneumonia because of their inability to swallow which can cause food to get into the lungs causing an infection.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that varies from each individual and progresses at a different rate as well.  Once a person is diagnosed, they live an average of 4 to 6 years. Through the years common risk factors have been researched that have shown to be a large part of the setting for Alzheimer’s.  The most common factor is being a person over the age of 65, which doubles their chances of getting Alzheimer’s every five years thereafter.

Another risk factor is genetics.  Research has associated three gene mutations that seem to be linked with Alzheimer’s.  If a person inherits one of the genes, there is a probable chance that they will get Alzheimer’s at some point in their life.  The highest-risk gene out of the three is apolipoprotein e4 (APOE-e4).  If an immediate family member has Alzheimer’s then your chances of getting it increases as well.

There is no accurate test that can diagnose a person with Alzheimer’s.  A doctor can do an evaluation and determine if a person is experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms.  Some further testing that can be done is taking images of the brain by CT scan or MRI to determine which part of the brain is experiencing less activity.

There is currently no evidence that can determine a way to prevent a person from developing Alzheimer’s.  Researchers have linked the possibility of heart disease increasing the chances of Alzheimer’s.  A way to prevent this is to stay active and eat healthy to lower your risk.



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MayoClinic.com – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161



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