ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE – EARLY SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Alzheimer’s Disease also affects behavior. 

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.

Approximately 50 million people worldwide age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. Of those, 60% are 75 years old and older.

EARLY SYMPTOMS

Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia but there are some common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially In the early stage; and these include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Symptoms may appear to be worse in the evenings, a condition called “Sundowning”

CAUSES

The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t fully understood. But at a basic level, brain proteins fail to function normally, which disrupts the work of brain cells (neurons) and triggers a series of toxic events. Neurons are damaged, lose connections to each other and eventually die. Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.

The risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Age
  • Family history and genetics
  • Down syndrome
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Head trauma
  • Air pollution
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Lifestyle 

PREVENTION

Alzheimer’s disease is not a preventable condition. However, a number of lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be modified. Evidence suggests that changes in diet, exercise, and habits may also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia. These include the following:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a diet of fresh produce, healthy oils, and foods low in saturated fat such as a Mediterranean diet
  • Following treatment guidelines to manage high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol
  • Asking your doctor for help to quit smoking if you smoke
  • Learning – reading, taking an online class, etc

HOW DOES PHYSIOTHERAPY GET INVOLVED?

Although many people think of Dementia as a disease of the mind and loss of memory, the effects on the brain often affect how the body moves and functions.  Just as a person starts to forget their children’s names, the body also forgets how to do basic movements like standing up from a chair or the motions required to use the toilet.  The person will then start to do less and less activity and lose their strength and balance reactions, increasing the risk that they may fall or injure themselves.  Once the disease progresses to the point that physical function starts to change, it’s important that a physiotherapist gets involved to reduce fall risk, improve the patient’s safety and improve the patient’s independence (reduce the speed at which the person loses their functioning and independence).  If you have a loved one who is showing some of these signs and symptoms, call us at PCA for an assessment.  Our skilled physiotherapists will do an evaluation and advise on the best plan of care to keep them safe and well for as long as possible.

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