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Alzheimer’s has been a medical condition since its discovery by Doctor Alois Alzheimer in 1906. No known cure exists, and experts are still unsure of its cause. The disease usually affects elderly adults over the age of 60.
Three stages define the disease: very early, mild to moderate, and severe. Individuals are not usually diagnosed until the mild to moderate stage. Scientists believe that an individual’s genetics, lifestyle, and environment all contribute to development of the ailment. All three facts vary from person to person, explaining why different individuals develop the disease at different rates.
Extremely small percentiles of individuals develop the ailment in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. In these rare cases, a genetic mutation in one of three genes inherited from a parent is present. Not all early cases have this mutation, but the majority indicates the mutation is somehow connected to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Over the years we have all been told that maintaining a nutritious diet, physical activity, mentally stimulating pursuits, and social engagement contribute to good health as we grow older. Research suggests that maintaining these factors as we age can reduce the risk of the cognitive decline leading to the development of this ailment. While genetics can override our best efforts, those maintaining a healthy lifestyle often slip into the stages of the disease slower that those who do not.
Sadly, this ailment cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. Examination of the brain tissue will reveal the features of the disease: Amyloid Plaques and Neurofibrillary Tangles. However, doctors are actively devising methods and tools to help them more accurately predict if a patient is suffering from the disease. Currently, diagnosis consists of the following:
Asking questions to determine the individual’s health, past medical history and problems, ability to independently carry out daily activities, and noticeable changes in both behavior and personality.
Conducting tests to determine an individual’s capability to remember, problem-solve, and language abilities.
Testing blood, urine, and spinal fluid.
Performing brain scans, such as an MRI.
Tests may be repeated to determine if Alzheimer’s is indeed developing. Early diagnosis is helpful. Families are better able to plan and assist thanks to early diagnosis.