Affecting around 500,000 people in the UK, Alzheimer’s disease is reported on nearly a daily basis, with new studies and research released every few weeks. However, given the amount of news coverage the condition is granted, many don’t know the inner details of Alzheimer’s, especially when so much contradicting information is published. To help clear up any confusion, we here at CareCo have created a short post on the science behind the disease, and what to look out for if you’re concerned.
‘Dementia’ is the general term given for memory loss and other intellectual abilities that are serious enough to affect your daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that attacks the memory, thinking and behaviour-related parts of the brain, developing slowly but eventually interfering with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, with 60 to 80% of cases reported as such. The NHS have stated that 1 in 6 people aged 80 or over are currently living with the condition, with more women than men affected. They’ve also reported that the condition affects 1 in 20 40-65 year-olds, labeling it as ‘early on-set Alzheimer’s’. After diagnosis, the average life span is around 8 years, but this can range between anything from 4 up to 20 years, depending on the person, the severity of their condition, and their lifestyle.
With many believing memory loss and problems recalling information as just natural signs of aging, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the process of getting older. However, if you are concerned about yourself or someone else, the earlier the diagnosis the better, especially in terms of treating the disease and planning for the future. Unfortunately there isn’t currently a cure for Alzheimer’s, but there is information and medication available to help curb the symptoms of it.
Ironically, the biggest risk factor of getting the disease is getting older, something we all must face. However, a family history of the condition or previous severe head injuries can also increase the risk.
A common early sign of Alzheimer’s is a difficulty in remembering newly learned information, such as someone’s name, an address, or a fact. This can then develop into disorientation (not knowing where you are or why), mood and behaviour changes, hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there), unfounded and untrue suspicions about family members/friends/caregivers, deepening confusion about events/times/places, continuous serious memory loss, and a difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
However, given the extensive list of symptoms, Alzheimer’s is not usually the cause of death, just a contributing factor. For example, a patient may pass away due to complications with pneumonia, but due to their disease they may not have realised they were ill, or were not able to communicate to others that they were feeling unwell. Due to the disease’s affect on the brain and the communication skills of the patient, many people with Alzheimer’s will enter hospital due to other medical ailments because they were unable to tell anyone, leaving their condition to deteriorate.
Prevention & Help
While it may seem like a condition you can’t avoid, simple and smart changes to your lifestyle can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Stopping smoking, cutting back on your alcohol intake, and leading a healthy, balanced diet can all cut the risk of the disease, alongside many others including diabetes and heart conditions. Staying physically fit and mentally active can also help your chances of avoiding Alzheimer’s, as keeping your brain active can stop its spread.
Websites of note for further help/advice: