Stages Of Alzheimers Disease
These stages include:
1. Early Stage Alzheimers
The earliest stages of Alzheimers may begin 20 years or more before diagnosis. At this point, plaques and tangles begin to form in parts of the brain that impact learning, memory, planning and thinking. Medical tests cannot yet detect Alzheimers in its earliest stages.
2. Mild to Moderate Alzheimers
As Alzheimers progresses to moderate stages, more plaques and tangles develop in areas of the brain important to memory, planning and thinking, and spread to areas that affect speech. These changes cause noticeable confusion and communication problems that can impact an individuals personal or work life. Often, Alzheimers is diagnosed in this stage.
Mild to moderate Alzheimers stages can last from two to 10 years. During this time period, individuals may struggle to recognize family members and friends. They may also experience behavior and personality changes.
3. Late Stage Alzheimers
The most severe stage of Alzheimers can last from one to five years. Most of the brains outer layer, which scientists have mapped to memory, movement, thinking and other functions, has been permanently damaged.
Widespread cell death causes the brain to shrink. At this point, individuals no longer recognize family and friends. They also lose their ability to care for themselves and communicate.
Final Stages Of Alzheimer’s
In the final stages, people may lose the ability to feed themselves, speak, recognize people and control bodily functions. Memory worsens and may become almost non-existent. Constant care is typically necessary. On average, those with Alzheimer’s live for 8 to 10 years after diagnosis, but this terminal disease can last for as long as 20 years.
A Message From The Gut To Your Brain
Whats been discovered: Sometimes medical breakthroughs come from unlikely sources. A recent round of research indicates that stools yes, thats right, stools might cure a variety of diseases like Alzheimers.
But not just any stool sample will do the trick. A certain kind of donor known as a super donor has an extremely rich microbial diversity.
Fecal transplants from super donors may have the power to heal everything from inflammatory bowel disease to multiple sclerosis and Alzheimers disease!
This area of study is based on research that discovered a relationship between gut bacteria and age-related maladies, including a discovered link between Alzheimers and gut bacteria.
The, um, bottom line: Researchers are seeking to understand precise how super donor stool samples help conquer chronic diseases. If and when they do, fecal transplantation could be a common therapy for treating illness.
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Open Wide And Say Gum Disease Might Encourage Alzheimers
Whats been discovered: Researchers now believe that a bacterium that leads to gum disease may also be a contributing factor to Alzheimers. This means that one of the bacteria responsible for things like tooth loss and a higher risk of cancer could also encourage toxic proteins to build up in the brain.
Late-breaking news: Researchers have determined that this porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria is capable of migrating to the brain. The bacteria unleashes enzymes that may damage nerve cells. This paves the way for memory problems, which can lead to Alzheimers.
The bottom line: The connection between gum disease and Alzheimers is paving the way for new kinds of therapeutic drugs targeting Alzheimers disease. In the meantime, these findings magnify the importance of brushing and flossing your teeth, and seeing a dentist regularly.
Atrophy On Brain Scans
Below I show an MRI brain scan. We can see the skull and the corticospinal fluid surrounding the brain . The brain itself has two colours on this type of MRI scan a withe-ish colour and a grey-ish colour. The white-ish colour indicates the so-called white matter, which is basically the nerve fibre bundles connecting different brain regions with each other. The white matter is not as important to atrophy as they grey matter the greyish coloured brain regions. The grey matter is where most of the cells bodies of our nerve cells sit. We can see that the majority of the nerve cells can be found on the outer regions of the brain the so-called brain cortex its like a grey ribbon around the brain. Since atrophy is mostly affecting the nerve cells, it is, therefore, the brain cortex , where we can see atrophy brain changes in dementia on brain scans.
Figure showing MRI brain scan, showing the brain, skull and corticospinal fluid zoomed in insert shows a close-up of the grey matter ribbon at the brain cortex red line indicates border between grey matter and corticospinal fluid blue line indicates border between grey matter and white matter.Figure shows brain MRI scans of: a healthy aged person a person with mild dementia and a person with moderate dementia. Three red square highlights the atrophy, showing increasing gaps between brain regions caused by nerve cell loss in the grey matter. Note: The scans are three different people, not the same person over time.
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How Is It Treated
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But there are medicines that may slow symptoms down for a while and make the disease easier to live with. These medicines may not work for everyone or have a big effect. But most experts think they are worth a try.
As the disease gets worse, you may get depressed or angry and upset. The doctor may also prescribe medicines to help with these problems.
S You Can Take Now To Protect Brain Health Based On The Latest Research:
1.Fight against frailty: Encourage your loved one with Alzheimers or dementia to keep moving both physically and mentally. Talk to your care team about taking a proactive approach to protecting your loved one in body and mind.
2.Dont accept poor sleep as normal. If mom or dad has trouble sleeping or if you notice they need to take regular naps, bring this to the attention of their doctor. Its becoming obvious that we dont just rest when we are sleeping our body is actively repairing itself!
3.Practice proper oral hygiene. When we dont take care of our teeth, it can lead to more than bad breath and root canals. It impacts our overall health. Follow the guidelines to floss daily, brush teeth twice and day, and schedule regular visits with a dentist.
4.Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! It bears repeating: Exercise isnt just for young, healthy people. Its for everyone. Compare notes with your care team about an appropriate exercise routine for your loved one.
5.Act healthy today to stay healthier tomorrow. The fight against dementia and Alzheimers begins when were young and continues throughout life. Protect your health and set a good example for everyone you love by respecting your body and mind with a sensible diet and frequent exercise.
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Are We Close To A Cure For Alzheimers
Do lifestyle changes have the power to reverse Alzheimers? Can a stool sample translated from a super donor turn back the clock on dementia? Is there a vaccine on the horizon that might prevent Alzheimers from developing in the first place? Dive in and explore some encouraging news about one of medicines most elusive pursuits.
Other Conditions With Similar Symptoms
Early in the disease, Alzheimer’s usually doesn’t affect a person’s fine motor skills or sense of touch. So a person who develops motor symptoms or sensory symptoms probably has a condition other than Alzheimer’s disease. Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, for instance, may cause motor symptoms along with dementia.
Other conditions with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease may include:
- Dementia caused by small strokes .
- Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
- Other problems such as kidney and liver disease and some infections such as HIV .
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What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease
AD is a type of dementia, a term used to describe a condition that involves memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. There are a number of different types of dementia, howevereach with its own causes and specific symptom profile. AD is just one variation.
The best-recognized sign of mental decline in AD is problems with memory. In the early stages of the disease, this often manifests as difficulties creating new memories, and problems are especially noticeable with , or memories about information and events . Early on, patients are typically able to maintain older memories and non-declarative memories. Over time, however, all memory can be affected, and even the most enduring memories may deteriorate.
But memory deficits are just one aspect of AD symptomatology. Patients can also experience problems with communication, and the ability to read and write may be impaired. Unpredictable mood disturbances, ranging from apathy and depression to angry outbursts, can occur. Thinking often becomes delusional, and a substantial subset of patients even experience visual hallucinations.
Its not just cognition thats affected, though. Movement is hindered, causing patients to begin to lose mobility and have trouble performing even the simplest acts of self-care. Basic motor functions like chewing and swallowing become faulty, and incontinence eventually occurs.
The Effects Of Alzheimer’s On The Brain
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain. Understanding how the anatomy of the Alzheimer’s brain differs from a normal brain gives us insight. It can help us cope better with the changes that happen to our loved ones as a result of this debilitating disease.
In Alzheimer’s disease, the appearance of the Alzheimer’s affected brain is very different to a normal brain. The cerebral cortex atrophies. That means that this area of the brain shrinks and this shrinkage is dramatically different from the cerebral cortex of a normal brain. The cerebral cortex is the outer surface of the brain. It is responsible for all intellectual functioning. There are two major changes that can be observed in the brain at autopsy:
- The amount of brain substance in the folds of the brain is decreased
- The spaces in the folds of the brain are grossly enlarged.
Microscopically there are a number of changes in the brain too.
The two major findings in the Alzheimer’s brain are amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques are found outside the neurons, neurofibrillary plaques are found inside the neurons. Neurons are the nerve cells within the brain.
Plaques and tangles are found in the brains of people without Alzheimer’s. It is the gross amounts of them that are significant in Alzheimer’s disease.
Safety And Supportive Measures
Creating a safe and supportive environment can be very helpful.
Generally, the environment should be bright, cheerful, safe, stable, and designed to help with orientation. Some stimulation, such as a radio or television, is helpful, but excessive stimulation should be avoided.
Structure and routine help people with Alzheimer disease stay oriented and give them a sense of security and stability. Any change in surroundings, routines, or caregivers should be explained to people clearly and simply.
Following a daily routine for tasks such as bathing, eating, and sleeping helps people with Alzheimer disease remember. Following a regular routine at bedtime may help them sleep better.
Activities scheduled on a regular basis can help people feel independent and needed by focusing their attention on pleasurable or useful tasks. Such activities should include physical and mental activities. Activities should be broken down in small parts or simplified as the dementia worsens.
Do Brain Cells Die As We Age
With normal aging, we dont find that neurons die in massive numbers. While with Alzheimers disease, the neurons or brain cells die in large numbers in certain areas of the brain.
This is the end product of the process of Alzheimers disease. Alzheimers causes neuron death. And this neuron death manifests as memory, thinking, and behavior changes.
But your brain is so resilient that it is able to adapt for many decades to this cell death.
Neuroscientists believe that when the very first signs of memory, thinking or behavior changes appear in an Alzheimers patient, their neuron loss is approximately 70% in certain areas of the brain.
This 70% loss represents a massive number of dead neurons in brain regions that are earliest affected by Alzheimers disease.
It is a truly remarkable process. Your brain is fighting and largely maintaining cognitive skills until you reach some sort of critical point. It is at this juncture, where a very large percentage of neurons are missing from the brain regions critical for memory formation, that Alzheimers becomes evident.
It is one of the most impressive things, that our brain is able to fight this process, and do a pretty good job of fighting for so long.
What causes this cell death? Alzheimers affects two proteins, beta-amyloid and tau. It causes tangle and plaque formation, brain inflammation, lost connections, and neuronal death.
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What Are The Symptoms
For most people, the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. Often the person who has a memory problem doesn’t notice it, but family and friends do. But the person with the disease may also know that something is wrong.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s get worse slowly over time. You may:
- Have trouble making decisions.
- Be confused about what time and day it is.
- Get lost in places you know well.
- Have trouble learning and remembering new information.
- Have trouble finding the right words to say what you want to say.
- Have more trouble doing daily tasks like cooking a meal or paying bills.
A person who gets these symptoms over a few hours or days or whose symptoms suddenly get worse needs to see a doctor right away, because there may be another problem.
What To Think About
An important part of treatment is finding and treating other medical problems the person may have.
- Depression occurs in nearly half of people with Alzheimer’s disease, especially those in the early stage of the disease. Helping them get treatment for depression can help them to do better with the abilities they still have.
- Hearing and vision loss, thyroid problems, kidney problems, and other conditions are common in older adults and may make Alzheimer’s worse. Treating these problems can improve quality of life and ease the burden on the caregiver.
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How The Brain Changes During Early Alzheimers
Whats been discovered: Recently, we explored the emotional impact of hearing three scary words: You have dementia.” But what is really happening during the beginning stages of Alzheimers disease? For the first time, researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have identified a series of changes that occur in the human brain during the initial phases of Alzheimers.
Specifically, researchers found a connection between changes in certain types of brain cells and the accumulation of tau protein. Next, researchers will turn their attention to whether these brain changes show up in blood samples or cerebrospinal fluid. If they do, this information could be used to identify Alzheimers biomarkers.
Late-breaking news: Scientists have also been researching the connection between a build up of amyloid plaques in the brain and the development of Alzheimers. Now, researchers have uncovered an Alzheimers gene that could create the conditions for amyloid plaques to show up in the brain.
Its been known for awhile that amyloid deposits are found a decade or longer before disease symptoms are recognized. Researchers have been looking for possible causes of the unhealthy amyloid buildup. Thousands of brain scans identified people with amyloid deposits before they experienced Alzheimers. The discovery of this gene could set the stage for the development of therapies that might halt the development of the disease.
Treatment Of Alzheimer Disease
Safety and supportive measures
Drugs that may improve mental function
Treatment of Alzheimer disease involves general measures to provide safety and support, as for all dementias. Also, certain drugs can help for a while. The person with Alzheimer disease, family members, other caregivers, and the health care practitioners involved should discuss and decide on the best strategy for that person.
Pain and any other disorders or health problems are treated. Such treatment may help maintain function in people with dementia.
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Dementia And The Brain
Knowing more about the brain and how it can change can help to understand the symptoms of dementia. It can help a person with dementia to live well, or to support a person with dementia to live well.
These pages explain which areas of the brain are responsible for certain skills and abilities, and how these are affected by dementia. We explain how changes to the brain relate to changes a person may notice as the condition progresses.
This information is helpful for anyone who wants to find out more about how the brain is affected by dementia.
Can Exercise Stop Alzheimers In Its Tracks
Whats been discovered: Its old news that regular exercise can help us feel better and live longer. But can regular exercise protect us against Alzheimers? A new study maintains that exercise can shield us from cognitive decline. Equally important, it reveals precisely how this occurs.
A study shared by Medical News Today in 2018 showed that half a year of regular exercise has the potential to actually reverse the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. Now, researchers from around the world are racing to explore the biological reasons that support this connection.
Their findings were published in the journal, Nature Medicine. Research hints that a protein and hormone released during exercise might explain the slowing cognitive impairment that typically accompanies Alzheimers related diseases. In the study, scientists found that Alzheimers disease interferes with these normal hormonal signals.
Late-breaking news: Besides boosting protective brain chemicals, exercise may help the brain retain important connections that often fade as we age. As little as a half hour of physical activity a few times a week can help us become sharper. This applies to both healthy people as well as those already experiencing cognitive impairment.
The bottom line: Researchers are now studying these signaling pathways in hopes that it leads to improved treatments for cognitive problems.
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