The psychological process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information is referred to as memory. Human memory is divided into three major categories: sensory, short-term, and long-term memory, where long-term memory is divided and sub-divided into other types of memory. After the age of 65, about 40% of us may have some sort of memory loss.
Do you have heard about dementia? Dementia is a broad term for memory loss and other mental abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent type of dementia, although there are many kinds. It is characterized by progressive loss of memory, thinking, behaviour, and social abilities and these alterations have an impact on a person’s ability to operate.
Causes of Alzheimer’s disease
The exact cause is unknown. The risk factors are most likely a combination of the following:
- Age-related brain changes: include brain atrophy (shrinking), inflammation, vascular damage, the production of unstable molecules known as free radicals, and the breakdown of energy production within cells.
- Family history of the disease: including people’s genes, which they inherit from their biological parents can influence their susceptibility to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Health, environment and lifestyle factors: include the link between cognitive decline and vascular illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity. Head injury, down’s syndrome, smoking, high alcohol consumption, poor diet, and lack of physical activity are also the risk factors for the disease to occur.
Types of Alzheimer’s disease
- Occurs Very rare
- Signs first appear between a person’s 30s and mid-60s.
- Usually caused by gene changes transmitted from parent to child.
- Most common type
- Sign first appears in a person’s mid-60s
- Many involve a gene called APOE ɛ4
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
- Cognitive symptoms: Mental decline, difficulty in thinking and understanding, delusions, disorientation, forgetfulness, mental confusion, inability to develop new memories, inability to do simple calculations, or failure to distinguish common items are all symptoms of mental decline.
- Behavioural symptoms: Aggression, anxiety, difficulty caring for oneself, irritation, pointless repetition of one’s word, personality changes, a lack of restraint or roaming and getting lost.
- Mood symptoms: anger, apathy, general dissatisfaction, loneliness, or mood swings.
- Psychological symptoms: depression, hallucination, paranoia.
- Bodily symptoms: a loss of appetite or agitation, inability to coordinate muscle motions or disorganized speech are also prevalent.
Prevalence of the disease According to National and state estimates from a nationwide study(2023), in India, the estimated dementia prevalence for persons aged 60 and is 7.4%. Dementia affects around 8.8 million Indians over the age of 60. Dementia is more common in women than men and in rural than urban regions. Dementia prevalence varies significantly across states.
Also read: where do you want to be as you get older?
How does Alzheimer’s affect the brain?
According to scientists, Alzheimer’s disease causes disrupts portions of a cell’s factory. They’re not clear where the problem begins. But only backups and breakdowns in a genuine factory. One system causes issues in another area. As the damage spreads, cells lose their capacity to function and eventually die. Alzheimer’s patients are densely packed with plaques and tangles. Plaques are beta-amyloid, a protein fragment deposit that builds up in the gap between nerve cells. Tangles are protein fibres that have been twisted. This is a protein that accumulates inside cells.
Autopsy investigation revealed that the majority of persons as they age, form plaques and tangles, which begin in areas important for memory before spreading to other regions. Most experts believe that they disable or block communication among nerve cells and disrupt processes the cells need to survive.
Diagnosis of the disease
There is no single test that proves a person has Alzheimer’s. We may diagnose it through;
a) Neurologist, who specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system.
b) Psychiatrist, who specializes in disorders that affect mood or the way the mind works.
c) Psychologist, with special training in testing memory and other mental functions.
Steps to diagnose:-
Understand the problem: includes kind of symptoms, the onset of symptoms, period of occurrence, and if they have gotten worse; Review medical history; Evaluate mood and mental history:
a) Is the patient aware of the symptoms; b) orientation to time, date and place; c) can remember a short list of words, follow instructions and do a simple calculation
Physical examination and diagnosing test:
a) The physician will evaluate diet and nutrition
b) check bp, temperature
c) perform other procedures to access overall health
- speech ; sensation ; eye movement ; coordination ; reflexes ; muscle tone and strength
Stages of Alzheimer’s disease
- Problems with the right word or name
- Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people.
- Challenges performing tasks in social or work settings.
- Forgetting material that was just read.
- Losing or misplacing a valuable object.
- Middle stage:
- Forget about events or one’s personal history.
- Feeling moody or withdrawn
- Being unable to recall their address or telephone number or college/school they have graduated.
- Confusion about where they are or what day it is.
- Changes in sleep pattern.
- Personality and behavioural changes including suspiciousness and delusions.
- Difficulty in controlling the bladder.
- Late stage:
- Need assistance with daily activities and personal care.
- Have great difficulty communicating.
- Experience changes in physical abilities including the ability to walk, sit and eventually swallow.
- Become increasingly vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia.
Medication approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that treats symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, for example, cholinesterase inhibitors, which prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger important for memory and learning. A treatment is other than medication that helps relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, for example, the presence of house guests, new caregivers, different living arrangements, and travel. Leading a healthy lifestyle would reduce the risk factor of developing this disease later. A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything ( an Irish proverb).