What Causes Alzheimers Disease
The causes of Alzheimers disease are unknown. Scientists believe that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins: beta-amyloid and tau. Beta-amyloid buildup forms plaques around brain cells. Tau deposits form twisted fibers called tangles within brain cells. As these proteins accumulate in and around the brain cells, the brain starts to lose its ability to function properly, this leads to loss of brain tissue, and eventually, the brain dies. The tissue damage also causes the affected parts of the brain to shrink .
Initially plaques and tangles damage parts of the brain that control memory, thought, and language. Later they spread and damage other parts of the brain, leading to neuronal degeneration and progressive cognitive decline.
Risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease:
The factors that increase the risk are:
- Age: Risk increases with age, affecting 15% of people older than 65 years and 50% of people older than 85 years.
- Family history: Family member with the disease increases the risk. Inherited gene mutations also increase the probability of developing the disease.
- Gender: Women have a higher risk than men.
Alzheimers Is The Most
- Retirees are more fearful of Alzheimers than infectious diseases such as COVID-19, as well as cancer, strokes or heart attacks.
- Findings showed one-in-three of retirees listed Alzheimers as the chronic disease they feared most, 11 points higher than cancer and 13 points more than contagious diseases such as COVID-19.
Icipating In Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trials
Everybody those with Alzheimers disease or MCI as well as healthy volunteers with or without a family history of Alzheimers may be able to take part in clinical trials and studies. Participants in Alzheimers clinical research help scientists learn how the brain changes in healthy aging and in Alzheimers. Currently, at least 270,000 volunteers are needed to participate in more than 250 active clinical trials and studies that are testing ways to understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent Alzheimers disease.
Volunteering for a clinical trial is one way to help in the fight against Alzheimers. Studies need participants of different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that results are meaningful for many people.
NIA leads the federal governments research efforts on Alzheimers. NIA-supported Alzheimers Disease Research Centers throughout the U.S. conduct a wide range of research, including studies of the causes, diagnosis, and management of the disease. NIA also sponsors the Alzheimers Clinical Trials Consortium, which is designed to accelerate and expand studies and therapies in Alzheimers and related dementias.
To learn more about Alzheimers clinical trials and studies:
- Talk to your health care provider about local studies that may be right for you.
Watch videos of participants in Alzheimers disease clinical trials talking about their experiences.
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Causes Of Frontotemporal Dementia
This is an important cause of dementia in younger people. It’s most often diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 65.
It’s caused by an abnormal clumping of proteins, including tau, in the frontal and temporal lobes at the front and sides of the brain.
The clumping of these proteins damages nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes, causing brain cells to die. This leads to shrinking of these areas of the brain.
Frontotemporal dementia is more likely to run in families than other, more common causes of dementia.
Read more about frontotemporal dementia.
How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed And Evaluated
No single test can determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease. A diagnosis is made by determining the presence of certain symptoms and ruling out other causes of dementia. This involves a careful medical evaluation, including a thorough medical history, mental status testing, a physical and neurological exam, blood tests and brain imaging exams, including:
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What Are Some Complications Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is an irreversible form of dementia. The rate of progression differs between people: some people have it only in the last 5 years of their life, while others may have it for as long as 20 years. Alzheimers disease eventually leads to complete dependence and increasing frailty. This means a secondary illness, such as pneumonia, may eventually cause death.
Other complications of Alzheimers disease may include:
- an inability to complete daily tasks such as planning meals and managing money
- a tendency to wander from home
- personality changes such as anxiety, depression and irritability that make relationships more difficult
- delusions and hallucinations in advanced stages of the disease
At A Glance: The Top 5 Leading Causes Of Death In England And Wales In 2020
In 2020, the top five causes of death were:
- Dementia and Alzheimers
- Ischaemic heart disease
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Lung-based cancers .
For deaths with a primary cause attributed to dementia, the 2020 figure shows a decrease in percentage from 12.5% in 2019 and 12.8% in 2018. This reduction has likely been impacted by coronavirus-related dementia deaths and a decreased diagnosis rate.
Help fund dementia research
Your support could fund vital dementia research that could be life-changing for people living with dementia. Please donate to dementia research.
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What Does Age Have To Do With It
The age you are diagnosed with AD may have the greatest impact on your life expectancy. The earlier you are diagnosed, the longer you may live. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have discovered that the average survival time for people diagnosed at age 65 is 8.3 years. The average life expectancy for people diagnosed at age 90 is 3.4 years.
Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimers. Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment . With MCI, people have more memory problems than normal for their age, but their symptoms do not interfere with their everyday lives. Movement difficulties and problems with the sense of smell have also been linked to MCI. Older people with MCI are at greater risk for developing Alzheimers, but not all of them do so. Some may even revert to normal cognition.
The first symptoms of Alzheimers vary from person to person. For many, decline in nonmemory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment may signal the very early stages of the disease. Researchers are studying biomarkers to detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and in cognitively normal people who may be at greater risk for Alzheimers. More research is needed before these techniques can be used broadly and routinely to diagnose Alzheimers in a health care providers office.
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Outlook For Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia will usually get worse over time. This can happen in sudden steps, with periods in between where the symptoms do not change much, but it’s difficult to predict when this will happen.
Although treatment can help, vascular dementia can significantly shorten life expectancy.
But this is highly variable, and many people live for several years with the condition, or die from some other cause.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, remember that you’re not alone. The NHS and social services, as well as voluntary organisations, can provide advice and support for you and your family.
How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimers disease.
To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem.
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.
People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimers or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
In addition, an early diagnosis provides people with more opportunities to participate in clinical trials or other research studies testing possible new treatments for Alzheimers.
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Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early stages the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be very subtle. However, it often begins with lapses in memory and difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects.
Other symptoms may include:
- Persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events
- Vagueness in everyday conversation
- Apparent loss of enthusiasm for previously enjoyed activities
- Taking longer to do routine tasks
- Forgetting well-known people or places
- Inability to process questions and instructions
- Deterioration of social skills
- Emotional unpredictability
Symptoms vary and the disease progresses at a different pace according to the individual and the areas of the brain affected. A person’s abilities may fluctuate from day to day, or even within the one day, becoming worse in times of stress, fatigue or ill-health.
Why Dementia Is Terminal
Patients should essentially keep in their minds that dementias, including the Alzheimers problem do not only causes loss of memory, instead, they cause damage of our brain.Human brain, as we all know that performs every activity for us, such as controlling our heart rate and lungs, overall metabolism, gastrointestinal tract, along with storage of memories and important facts. This means, with consistent decline of your cognitive functions, ability of your body to stay healthy losses.
Dementia thus eventually causes negative effect in the brain and that too in such an extent that it fails to gain control of other body areas and start with shut down. Hence, it is very much essential to keep in mind that the problem is of gradual one requires many years to progress, but still it is one of terminal conditions.
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When To See A Doctor
If you see yourself or your loved one described in these symptoms, contact your physician to arrange for an evaluation. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease involves several tests to rule out other conditions and is an important first step in treatment and management of the disease.
Know, though, that not all problems with cognition are due to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. This is one of many reasons why it’s important to see your physician if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
How Does A Person Die From Dementia
Can dementia kill? Alzheimer’s disease doesnt just make you forgetful. Its a serious, progressive condition which is, eventually, terminal. Alzheimers and other forms of dementia have now overtaken heart disease to become the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
The brain is responsible for more than thought, memory and understanding. It controls our bodily systems including breathing, circulation and digestion. Alzheimers kills cells in the brain. This damage initially leads to problems remembering things and communicating effectively. However, with time the brain damage affects the whole body, leading to death. This can be from a number of causes:
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How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Alzheimers is complex, and it is therefore unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will successfully treat it in all people living with the disease.
Scientists are exploring many avenues to delay or prevent the disease as well as to treat its symptoms. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are developing and testing several possible interventions. Under study are drug therapies aimed at a variety of disease interventions, as well as nondrug approaches such as physical activity, diet, cognitive training, and combinations of these. Just as we have many treatments for heart disease and cancer, we will likely need many options for treating Alzheimers. Precision medicine getting the right treatment to the right person at the right time will likely play a major role.
Current approaches to treating Alzheimers focus on helping people maintain mental function, treating the underlying disease process, and managing behavioral symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease
Early on, Alzheimers disease may be hard to notice. The first signs are usually memory loss and difficulty finding the right words for everyday things. However, many people have trouble with memory but dont have Alzheimers so its important to visit a doctor to work out the exact cause of memory problems.
Other common symptoms of Alzheimers disease include:
- vagueness in daily conversation
Alzheimers disease is sometimes classified into 3 stages, based on the severity of symptoms:
Symptoms will progress differently between people, depending on what areas of the brain are affected. A persons symptoms may also change from day to day and can become worse with stress, illness or tiredness.
Watch the video below to learn more about the early signs of dementia.
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Causes Of Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which damages and eventually kills brain cells.
This can happen as a result of:
- narrowing and blockage of the small blood vessels inside the brain
- a single stroke, where the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off
- lots of “mini strokes” that cause tiny but widespread damage to the brain
Tackling these might reduce your risk of vascular dementia in later life, although it’s not yet clear exactly how much your risk of dementia can be reduced.
How Does The Number Of Deaths From Dementia Compare To Other Diseases In The Uk
Under the revised methods, the ONS groups all of the diseases causing dementia like Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia together into one category.
This contrasts to conditions like cancer, which is separated out by disease type. Deaths from diseases such as lung cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer are all analysed separately. Lung cancer caused the most deaths of all cancers in 2020, recorded on 4.7% of death certificates.
However, if all the different types of cancer were grouped together, the picture would look different. For example, cancer would have been responsible for 1 in 4 UK deaths in 2017 if this was the case.
The grouping of diseases therefore influences how these conditions rank in the causes of deaths in the nations of the UK.
This graph shows the leading causes of death in women in England and Wales in 2018 with all types of cancer combined. .
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Is There Treatment Available
At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, one group of drugs called cholinergeric drugs appears to be providing some temporary improvement in cognitive functioning for some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Drugs can also be prescribed for secondary symptoms such as restlessness or depression or to help the person with dementia sleep better.
Community support is available for the person with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and carers. This support can make a positive difference to managing dementia. Dementia Australia provides support, information and counselling for people affected by dementia. Dementia Australia also aims to provide up-to-date information about drug treatments.
For more information contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
For a range of books and videos contact our Library.
For advice, common sense approaches and practical strategies on the issues most commonly raised about dementia, read our Help Sheets.
Treatments For Vascular Dementia
There’s currently no cure for vascular dementia and there’s no way to reverse any loss of brain cells that happened before the condition was diagnosed.
But treatment can sometimes help slow down vascular dementia.
Treatment aims to tackle the underlying cause, which may reduce the speed at which brain cells are lost.
This will often involve:
- taking medicines, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, lower cholesterol or prevent blood clots
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The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease
Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.
One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .