Alzheimer’s Disease: Brain Changes, Symptoms & Treatment
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that typically begins developing between the ages of 60 and 70. The disease is usually first diagnosed after mild signs of forgetfulness and slight behavioral changes in older adults. As the disease progresses, it begins to severely impair the functioning of the memory and thinking processes within the brain.
Here’s a brief look at how Alzheimer’s disease impairs the brain, the symptoms it causes, and the treatment options that are available.
Alzheimer’s disease tends to be so severe because it actually impacts the structure of the brain. As the disease begins to develop, the neurons within the brain become less active and the brain cells begin to die. In the process, memory and thinking patterns are disrupted.
One of the most common brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque. This essentially blocks off the communication between the neurons within the brain. At the same time, “tangles” begin to form within the brain. This is caused by a build-up of protein that suddenly detaches from its attachment point and blocks the neurons from communicating.
As the plaque and tangles continue to accumulate, the Alzheimer’s diagnosis worsens.
Alzheimer’s disease also comes with reduced blood flow and nutrient flow to the brain. This can eventually cause the death of brain cells and reduced brain functioning, typical in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are plenty of signs that might occur in an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to note that the signs and symptoms become much more severe as the condition progresses.
Here’s a quick look at some of the symptoms that come along with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
- Difficulty remembering newly learned information
- Slower thinking patterns
- Memory loss (short and long-term)
- Disorientation and severe confusion
- Unusual mood and thinking processes
- Difficulty speaking or performing daily tasks
What makes the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease even more complicated is that many are reluctant to seek help. It often takes the thoughtful urging of loved ones to encourage an elderly relative or friend to see a doctor for their symptoms.
The treatment of Alzheimer’s disease depends on the severity of the condition. Here’s an overview of the different types of treatment methods available, according to the National Institute on Aging.
When it comes to mild or moderate cases, most treatments will involve the use of cholinesterase inhibitors like Razadyne and Exelon. These treatment methods help to preserve acetylcholine levels within the brain, which plays a vital role in thinking and memory processes.
For more severe cases of Alzheimer’s disease, prescription medication like Namenda is often used. This is designed to slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for the patient. The goal of these medications is to maintain glutamate levels to limit cell death.
Aside from medication, there’s a lot that an Alzheimer’s patient might need when it comes to succeeding in their daily life. Most importantly, a person with severe Alzheimer’s disease should have live-in support for 24/7 assistance. This can help to keep the patient on a consistent daily schedule and reduce risks of dangerous activities (driving, leaving alone, etc.)
If you or somebody you know has recently begun showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease (loss of memory, confusion, and behavioral changes), it’s important that you encourage them to see a medical professional as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to slow the progression of the disease and improve the overall quality of your loved one’s life.
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Madelaine is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at Universidad de Santa Isabel with a Master Certification in Health Coaching at Dr. Sears Wellness Institute. She is also a National Board Certified-Health and Wellness Coach with the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching, a Certified Quiet the Noise Group Coach with Elias Institute of Professional Coaching, a PACES facilitator, a Seizure First Aid Trainer, a trained HOBSCOTCH Memory Coach and brain health professional. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, dancing and reading oracle or tarot cards.