January is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. This illness currently affects 1 in 11 seniors in Canada.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a degenerative disease that causes brain lesions. Memory loss is the most recognized symptom. At this time, there is no cure for AD. However, progress currently being made in research is helping to enhance the quality of life of those affected.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Over time, the patient’s brain cells shrink or disappear and are replaced by dense, irregularly shaped spots called plaques. These plaques gradually affect the various areas of the brain, impairing memory, imagination, language, reasoning and judgment. AD affects each patient differently. However, the progression of the disease can be divided into three distinct stages:
The three stages of Alzheimer’s disease
Early stage (two to four years)
- Some forgetfulness
- Difficulty processing new information
- Concentration and orientation problems
Middle stage (two to ten years)
- Significant loss in ability to cognitive function
- More pronounced loss of memory
- Difficulty recognizing people
- Mood swings
- Repetitive gestures
Late stage (indeterminate)
- Severely altered faculties
- Inability to recognize others
- Frequent sleeping
- Inability to speak, dress or wash
- Recourse to non-verbal communication
Risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease
Here are a few of the main risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease:
Those 65 and over are more likely to suffer from AD. Moreover, since women live longer than men, they are more likely to be affected by AD.
Despite what we may hear, only 5 to 10 percent of cases are due to heredity.
Those who have had a head injury appear to be more at risk of developing AD.
Treating Alzheimer’s disease
At the moment, there are no treatments that can cure Alzheimer’s. While useful, prescription medications for AD only address symptoms and simply delay the deterioration of abilities and behaviour among certain patients.
Although science has not yet discovered the key to treating AD, it has nevertheless identified certain factors that can prevent or delay its onset. For example, you should:
- Manage your cholesterol and blood pressure
- Stimulate your mind (reading, crosswords, sudoku, etc.)
- Eat a healthy diet
Alzheimer’s disease is difficult for both sufferers and the loved ones who care for them. Sound, practical advice, along with adequate support, can help them face this experience with greater serenity.
Do you have questions about Alzheimer’s disease? Talk to your pharmacist. He’s there to help!