Have you ever felt extra forgetful or just out of sorts and worried there could be a medical condition causing it? For many of us, everyday stress or lack of sleep can cause our brains to not function at optimal levels. But most can recover with some lifestyle adjustments. For others, there may be a concern about Alzheimer’s disease. What exactly is Alzheimer’s and what are the symptoms? Knowing the facts about Alzheimer’s is essential if you have elderly parents, friends or co-workers or just for peace of mind. It just might help with an early diagnosis or keep someone from jumping to conclusions.

Facts you need to know about Alzheimer’s Disease

Considered a neurological disorder, Alzheimer’s is the slow death of brain cells caused by protein plaque deposits building up on the brain. The loss of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, the most common type in the United States. It is estimated that 5 million (2013) people in the US have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and that by 2050 that number will double. One of the most challenging facts about Alzheimer’s is that it is a degenerative disease, meaning symptoms start off mild and grow more severe over time. Most likely a victim of this disease will require full-time assistance at some point.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Cognitive decline can show in many different ways. Two or more of the following five symptom categories present in an individual can indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Decreased ability to take in and remember new information – This can manifest as repetitive questions or conversations, forgetting planned events, misplacing personal belongings or getting lost on a familiar route.

Impaired judgment, reasoning or the ability to complete complex tasks – Poor decision making and the inability to manage finances and planning sequential actives to complete a task are indicators.

Impaired visual abilities not due to eyesight problems – Many experience difficulty recognizing faces or common objects and cannot find objects in their direct view. Also, the loss of the ability to use simple tools is common.

Difficulty speaking, reading and writing – Alzheimer’s patients often have a hard time thinking of common words while having a conversation.

Marked personality changes – Unexplained mood changes that are out of character such as becoming agitated, appearing socially withdrawn, showing lack of interest in beloved tasks, lacking motivation or loss of empathy. Patients can exhibit unacceptable social behavior or act in a compulsive or obsessive manner.

Is Alzheimer’s avoidable?

Many risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are unavoidable, such as aging, family history or carrying specific genes. Efforts in overall health may help to prevent the onset of the disease. These include but are not limited to getting regular exercise, managing the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, and maintaining a varied and healthful diet. Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s can be very difficult. There are many programs to help those in need. The Alzheimer’s Association is a wonderful source of knowledge and connections to support those affected. Using the resources available can make a big difference in quality of life.