Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living. In most people with Alzheimer's, symptoms first appear after age 60. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people.
The exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is unknown, although a number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition. These include:
- increasing age
- a family history of the condition
- previous severe head injuries
- lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease
Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms develop gradually and become more severe over the course of several years.
The first sign of Alzheimer's disease is usually minor memory problems. For example, this could be forgetting about recent conversations or events, and forgetting the names of places and objects.
As the condition develops, memory problems become more severe and further symptoms can develop, such as:
- confusion and disorientation
- personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others
- hallucinations (seeing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are untrue)
- problems with language and speech
- problems moving around without assistance
How Alzheimer's disease is treated
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but medication is available that can help improve some of the symptoms and slow down the development of the condition in some people.
Various other types of support are also available to help people with Alzheimer's live as independently as possible, such as making changes to your home so it's easier to move around.
Psychological treatments such as cognitive stimulation may also be offered to help improve your memory, problem-solving skills and language ability.
Can Alzheimer's disease be prevented?
As the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not clear, there is no known way to prevent the condition. However, there are some steps you can take that may help reduce your risk or delay the onset of dementia, such as:
- stopping smoking if you smoke and cutting down on alcohol
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- having regular health tests as you get older
- staying physically fit and mentally active
Taking these steps also has other health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and improving your overall mental health.
Use the Calico lifestyle target planner in your profile to assist you in taking steps towards better health.
Sources: National Institute on Aging (Alzheimer's Basics), NHS Choices (Alzheimer's disease )