Alzheimer's: The Quick Guide To Understanding The Disease

Posted on: 25 February 2015


While as many as five million Americans are battling this disease on a daily basis, the disease itself can still seem unknown and frightening. Below is a quick guide to understanding Alzheimer's Disease.

What Is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's disease is a neurological disorder that affects the memory and general mental functions. It is progressive, meaning it worsens over time and does not relapse or "get better."

Alzheimer's is not simply age-related memory loss—instead, it's a disease that leads to brain cell death and deterioration in daily functioning. While the majority of sufferers are 65 and older, this disease can affect those in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Alzheimer's is diagnosed by neurologists with the help of neurological exams, neuropsychological testing, and brain imaging.

Who Is At Risk?

There are many factors that play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. While genetics can play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, it only plays a small part. Those with a cognitive impairment or with a past head trauma are at an increased risk, but general lifestyle, heart health, and lifelong social engagement also play a role.

Note that even if someone falls into all of the categories, it does not mean they will develop it. Likewise, an individual who does not appear to be at risk can still develop this disorder during their lifetime.

How Is it Treated?

While there is no cure for this disease, there are medications and other medical treatments that can significantly slow the progression of the disease and increase the patient's quality of life.

One of the more popular drug treatments is one that increases communication between cells within the brain. Progression of the disease can be stopped for a time with this treatment, but eventually, memory and mental function will begin to deteriorate. As functions break down, it's important to work with physical and occupational therapists to prolong the functions the patient does have, and help them to adapt to what they can no longer do.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, the patient's happiness and general well being can still be maintained with the help of loved ones, doctors, neurologocial services and treatment. If you or a loved one are at an increased risk, it's important to maintain proper health through diet and exercise—both physical and mental. If you suspect a loved one has this disease, it's important they be seen immediately so they can receive proper treatment.