Alzheimer’s can occur in 30s & 40s: Common signs include repeating questions, becoming suspicious of others.
Most people fail to realise that loss of memory could be a sign of an irreversible and progressive brain disorder. They mistake Alzheimer’s disease for normal ageing. The most common cause of dementia, an umbrella term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities, Alzheimer’s is typically diagnosed in patients over 65 years of age. However, there are cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s too, which occur in patients in their 30s and 40s.
Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not known yet researchers believe that a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors are responsible for the disease named after Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist.
In 1906, he was the first to find the prime suspects — plaques (called as amyloid plaques) and tangles (also known as neurofibrillary tangles) — in damaging and killing nerve cells in the brain.
Alzheimer’s worsens over time. The key is to watch out for early symptoms, which can eventually get so bad that they hamper one’s ability to carry out simple, day-to-day tasks.
The symptoms differ from person to person. In the early stages, non-memory functions can show deterioration in the form of word-finding difficulty, visuo-spatial disorientation and impaired judgement.
However, the common signs include difficulty in remembering things (especially newly-learned information), repeating questions, losing one’s way in familiar places, taking longer with daily self-care tasks, behaviour changes (becoming aggressive or suspicious of others), difficulty in swallowing and speaking coherently, and inability to walk without support.
Research shows that damage to the brain starts years before the symptoms appear. Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia are often indications that the disease has progressed beyond the early stage. People with severe Alzheimer’s are likely to become completely dependent on others for their care.
A complex disease, Alzheimer’s cannot be cured or its progression reversed by any medication, therapy, or intervention.
There are a few USFDA-approved medications for early Alzheimer’s disease like rivastigmine, donepezil and memantine, which work by regulating neurotransmitters (chemicals in brain). However, early diagnosis and treatment can help slow down the symptoms, help preserve daily functioning for longer, and improve the quality of life not just for people with Alzheimer’s, but also their caregivers.
Studies suggests that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts, staying physically fit and mentally active as well as quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol can reduce your risk or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
There’s no denying the importance of engaging in mentally-stimulating pursuits — say, learning a new language or a skill — to keep cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s at bay. It definitely helps to have an active social life, especially as one gets older.
economictimes.indiatimes.com, by Dr Kalyani Karkare