Alzheimer’s Disease and its Causes

Jun 2, 2021 | Medicare Benefits

June is Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s was first described in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer when he noticed the changes in the brain tissue of Auguste Deter, who died of an unusual mental illness. Since then, continuous research is being made to understand its causes and know how to treat or prevent it.


What is Alzheimer’s Disease?


Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that causes brain cells to die. Someone with Alzheimer’s gradually loses their ability to think, remember, make decisions, and function independently.

Alzheimer’s is a common type of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. There are around 5.8 million people who are 65 and older in the United States who live with Alzheimer’s.1

Dehydration, malnutrition, or infection are some complications from severe loss of brain function in the advanced stages of the disease. These complications may result in death. With the help of medications and treatments, Alzheimer’s progression may be slowed down and help temporarily improve symptoms.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?


The key symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. Its early signs include difficulty remembering new information, recent events, and conversations since Alzheimer’s typically starts in the part of the brain that affects learning. While memory loss is a typical age-related change, it can also be a sign of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

As the disease progresses, the decline in memory worsens and other symptoms start to develop.


Signs of Alzheimer’s

  • Memory Loss such as:
    • Forgetting important dates and events
    • Asking the same questions repeatedly
    • Increasingly needing to rely on memory aids
  • Difficulty in planning or problem solving such as:
    • Trouble following familiar instructions
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Taking longer to complete a task than usual
  • Difficulty finishing familiar tasks such as:
    • Driving to a familiar location
    • Remembering the rules of a game
    • Organizing a grocery list
  • Confusion with time or place such as:
    • Losing track of dates, seasons, and passage of time
    • Forgetting where they are or how they got there
  • Difficulty with visual images and spatial relationships such as:
    • Having vision problems
    • Experiencing balance issues
    • Having problems with judging distance
    • Difficulty determining color or contrast
  • New problems in speaking or writing such as:
    • Struggling with finding the right word
    • Difficulty in naming a familiar object
    • Inability to hold a conversation such as losing train of thought in the middle of a conversation

If you or anyone you know is concerned about your memory or other cognitive skills, speak with your doctor or health care provider for a thorough assessment and diagnosis. Early detection is important to explore treatments that can help with symptom relief.


What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?


Until now, the exact causes of Alzheimer’s are not fully understood. Alzheimer’s progresses over time. It is characterized by changes in the brain that causes neurons to die.

For most people, it is believed that the disease is caused by several risk factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment that affect the brain over time.


Risk factors

  • Increasing age
    Aging increases the risk of getting Alzheimer’s. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s increases as one gets older.
  • Family history
    Those with family members who have Alzheimer’s are more likely to get it too.
  • Genetics
    Genes influence whether a person develops a disease. Almost 1% of Alzheimer’s cases are caused by deterministic genes.
  • Lifestyle
    Lack of physical activity, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol, poor sleeping habits, are a few lifestyle factors that can contribute to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Other factors
    Other factors such as brain injury, brain and heart health, lifestyle, and wellness choices can influence one’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s.


Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s?


While there is no current cure for it, treatment for symptoms is available.


If you are a Medicare beneficiary, Medicare might be able to help you reduce your costs.
Medicare Advantage has Special Needs Plan (SNP) that can help provide additional coverage in treating and managing Alzheimer’s disease.
The global effort to find ways to treat Alzheimer’s, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing continues.


Show your support for the cause and together, let’s #ENDALZ.
Visit https://www.alz.org to learn more about supporting the cause.



References:

1 What is Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). Alzheimer’s and Dementia. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers

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