In a fairly general way we can agree to say that aging is not always pleasant, old age comes with its share of changes on the body and the mind which can turn out to be more or less serious and deplorable as one faces it can show you the parts of the body that age the fastest. Alzheimer’s disease can be one of those things that happens in old age and we’re going to talk a little bit about it to try to explain in a very concise way what this disease is because it’s still often misunderstood today.
1. What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that affects the brain and is neurodegenerative, which means that it sometimes continues to develop without the person concerned realizing it and can get worse more or less quickly. It attacks certain areas of the brain and causes a loss of several of its functions in a completely irreversible way.
2. When was it discovered?
It was the German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer who in 1907 “discovered” or rather identified the disease in one of his patients, the disease to which he gave his name. From the study the doctor did on this patient, we continued to monitor other cases to document the disease to this day.
3. What are the symptoms?
The progression of the disease is classified into three phases:
– First stage (mild): Short and long-term memory is affected in a fairly concise manner, resulting in the sick person having temporary forgetfulness (direction, name, recent precise memory).
– Second stage (moderate): The hippocampus of the brain is still affected and the patient begins to have more advanced signs of the disease which affect his memory but also his language and his behaviour. At this stage, the patient may need help with household chores because he is rapidly losing autonomy.
– Third stage (severe): Memory is completely impaired, most recent events are no longer recorded, but the person may also suffer from dementia and can no longer take care of himself. Almost ubiquitous help is required. On the other hand, travel is difficult or even impossible and mobility is reduced, causing increasingly serious physical disorders.
4. How many people does it affect?
There are almost 55 million people with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide (45 million in 2015) and it is estimated that by 2030 78 million people will be affected by the disease and 139 million in 2050. The number of cases is therefore increasing significantly, which is linked to the average increase in life expectancy.
5. Can it be cured?
Some symptoms of the disease can be alleviated with treatment, but there is no way to cure or stop it. Unfortunately, because the patient is degenerative, the patient cannot recover the lost abilities and there is no way to return to a less advanced stage when he has reached a new level in the disease.
6. Are there things that can cause the disease?
In general, the advanced age of a person is a ground that can cause Alzheimer’s disease, but other causes are studied: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, a high cholesterol level, excessive use of anxiolytics, depression, significant exposure to mercury or aluminum … Researchers are trying to define the things that can promote the onset of the disease and its evolution, but the causes appear to be extremely numerous.
7. Does it only affect older people?
No. Alzheimer’s disease affects the vast majority of the elderly because almost 95% of patients are over 65 years old, but it can start early, affecting 4 to 5% of patients without any real age limit. .
8. Is the disease fatal?
Unless there is an accident caused by inattention or dementia of the patient, one does not really die of Alzheimer’s disease. It is usually because of the physical disorders indirectly caused by the disease that patients die from it. Some develop pressure sores or infections due to lack of movement, others pneumonia (one of the most common causes of death) due to difficulty swallowing.
9. Is there an average life expectancy for affected people?
Depending on how quickly the disease progresses, the management and the severity of the symptoms, the life expectancy of someone who declares Alzheimer’s varies between 8 to 12 years, but of course it can be more and must also be calculated, depending on the age of the person when they develop the disease, but also if they already have other disorders or diseases.