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Spartan Nurse Perspectives: Know the signs, symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease 



Dementia is a term referring to a range of symptoms affecting cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia characterized by progressive memory loss and cognitive decline. An estimated 6.9 million Americans aged 65 and older are currently living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. More than 9 million Americans may develop Alzheimer’s by 2030 with a possibility of 12 million by 2040 as the “Baby Boomer” generation ages. 

Alzheimer’s Disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, he noticed brain tissue changes in a woman who died of a mental illness with symptoms including memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behavior. An autopsy revealed abnormal clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled fiber bundles (tau).  

Early signs 

Some early signs of Alzheimer’s include memory problems, impaired reasoning, vision/spatial issues, and impaired judgement. As the disease progresses, difficulties develop for common tasks like driving, cooking a meal, or paying bills. They may ask the same questions repeatedly, become lost easily, and lose things or put them in odd places.  Personality changes may occur including worry, anger, anxiety, hallucinations, delusions or paranoia.  

The National Institute on Aging reports that changes in the brain including buildups of proteins that form amyloid plagues and tau tangles may begin a decade or more before Alzheimer’s symptoms appear. A study published in JAMA Neurology showed a new simple blood test that is up to 96% accurate in identifying elevated levels of beta amyloid and up to 97% accurate in identifying tau.  


Presently there are no cures for Alzheimer’s. Treatments are available that temporarily slow, but not reverse, the decline of the disease. This exciting new breakthrough will guide development of treatments that may treat Alzheimer’s before symptoms emerge. 

Although risk factors such as increasing age and family history cannot be altered, people can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by managing chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and high cholesterol as well as maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity, not smoking or excessive drinking, and getting adequate sleep.  

Socialization appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, so maintaining bonds with family, friends, and community involvement is important.  


For more information about Alzheimer’s disease please visit: 

Alzheimer's Association 

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America 

U.S. Government: Alzheimer’s Resources