Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia, a multi-symptom condition that causes a progressive decline in mental function. This decline often becomes so severe that it disrupts everyday life for both the patient and their family. Initially, people with Alzheimer’s may show signs of forgetfulness and even have subtle personality changes. But these symptoms can be hard to distinguish from normal age-related memory problems and personality changes. As the illness progresses, memories — particularly recent ones — become harder to recall. People with Alzheimer’s disease often forget conversations or appointments, misplace their possessions, and get lost in places they were once familiar with. Alzheimer’s affects a person’s ability to think and reason, make judgments and decisions, plan, and perform routine tasks. Common behavioral changes include:
Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint a single, exact cause of Alzheimer’s. Instead, they believe that most people who develop the disease do so through a combination of circumstances, including genetic predisposition, lifestyle, and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. While the underlying causes may not be crystal clear, there are several known risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing the disease, including:
Being at risk for heart disease has also been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. This means that having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, smoking, eating a poor diet, and not getting enough exercise may have an even great impact on long-term health than previously thought.
The way Alzheimer’s affects the brain is clear: It damages or kills brain cells, and destroys some of the connections between surviving cells. It’s carefully diagnosed using a thorough medical history, physical and neurological tests, and a mental status evaluation. Dr. Shakil may order other tests to help rule out any conditions that mimic some of the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as a vitamin deficiency, thyroid condition, urinary tract infection, bad reaction to medication, or depression.
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