Alzheimer’s disease is an incurable neurodegenerative disease (progressive loss of neurons) of the brain tissue that causes progressive and irreversible loss of mental functions, including memory. This is the most common form of dementia in humans. It was first described by German physician Alois Alzheimer in 1906.
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still unknown. Genetic and environmental factors contribute to its onset and development. However, there are known risk factors: some genetic anomalies, factors of cardiovascular risk or intoxication certain heavy metals.
The first symptom is often a loss of memory (amnesia), manifested initially by minor distractions which increase with the progression of the disease. The earliest memories are still relatively preserved.
Neurological involvement extends thereafter the associative cortex frontal and temporo-parietal, leading to more severe cognitive impairment (confusion, irritability, aggression, mood, and emotions, executive functions and language) and the loss of long-term memory. Destruction of neurons continues until the loss of autonomic functions and death.
By now it is known that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of mental deterioration responsible for 50 to 80 percent of cases. The second place is taken by the vascular related dementia: circulatory problems caused by strokes or narrowed and calcified arteries can damage the brain so far as to develop dementia. The two types of dementia are often overlapped.
Alzheimer’s disease is also considered a burden on the health care system. Since the number of very old people has increased and continues to increase, the number of the patients suffering from the disease is on the rise. The treatment costs is a growing financial challenge for the health care funds.
Recent scientific studies have suggested that even slight but regular physical activity (walking, gardening) may protect from the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. It is assumed that there is a positive effect of exercise preventing vascular risk factors (hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus) due to reduced vascular damage in the brain and thus – indirectly – preventing the onset of dementia symptoms.
The adaptation of habitats to the changing needs and opportunities can facilitate the daily lives of patients and caregivers. The simplification of work procedures and labeling of objects help the patient to obtain a greater degree of independence. Changes in the known processes or the environment often unnecessary stimulate the patient, while well-lit rooms, adequate rest, and limited requirements give the patient a feeling of security. Appropriate social and visual stimulation can lead to an improvement in attention and orientation, for example, an increase in food intake can be achieved if strikingly colored table accessories are used.
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