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What Exactly is Alzheimer’s?

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As uncommon as the name of the disease sounds, its prevalence and incidence rates are not. In fact, almost four million people in the United States are affected by this problem. All can be affected, men or women, across all social status and economic position in life.

Characteristics of the Disease

Alzheimer’s is a progressive and degenerative problem under the umbrella of diseases called dementia. It is characterized by disorientation and impaired memory. It is apparently caused by an attack in the brain, affecting one’s memory, thinking skills and judgment. Most patients will experience a change in language ability, in the way they use their mental processes and of course their behavior. 

Who Gets Alzheimer's Disease?

While anybody can be affected by this problem, only those that are older than age 65 experience the lagging in their thinking skills. Still, there are some who gets Alzheimer’s even when they are just 30 years old but these cases are very rare and can only account for a small percentage of the total number of cases. One out of 10 people over the age 65 has Alzheimer’s and nearly half of these patients are over 85 years old. In a national survey conducted in the United States, almost 19 million Americans have one family member who suffers from this dreaded problem.     

In addition to old age, family history of dementia can also predispose someone to the disease. This is because Alzheimer’s is said to be caused by a problem in the genetic mutations. Still, when you study the cases, Alzheimer’s is commonly the result of a host of other factors besides genes. In fact, environmental factors such as hobbies and mental pursuits are things that can help prevent the onset of the problem.   

A Look at Early and Late Symptoms of Alzheimer's

What is difficult with Alzheimer’s is the fact that its symptoms are basically the same with ordinary signs of old age. At the beginning, there will be some memory loss. The person with Alzheimer’s will also experience confusion and disorientation even with things that they are used to doing. The trick is to make sure that one can recognize what a normal memory loss is against something of Alzheimer’s caliber. 

Often, there will be a gradual memory loss. They will find it hard to read or to write or to think clearly. After which they will experience a decline in the ability to perform tasks that are already automatic and routine. Believe it or not, in cases that are already in the terminal stage, the patient may even forget how to brush their teeth or how to use a spoon and fork, something that is really pretty basic with a lot of people.

This is one example of the difference of Alzheimer’s from ordinary memory loss. Forgetfulness will not affect tasks that are routinary. There will also be difficulty in learning new things and in memorizing things. Some patients may even forget the language that they are speaking with while others will no longer recognize their family. Personality will change in terms of the way they communicate with other people and the way they behave.

There is actually no change in personality per se but because of the problems in their memory, they may appear aloof and suspicious perhaps because they cannot recognize the people that they know before. Some may even become extremely fearful and passive for the simple fact that they cannot remember you. As the disease worsens, the patient will then become so incapable of taking care of themselves that they will require help even in eating and in sleeping.

Next Up:  Causes of Alzheimer's Disease