Alzheimer’s Disease: Overview, Stages, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive type of dementia, which is a general term for conditions that harm memory, thinking and behavior. Dementia can have different causes, such as brain injuries or disease. Sometimes the cause is unknown. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease makes up 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after age 65. If diagnosed before then, it’s called “younger onset” or “early onset” Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but treatments can slow its progression. For more information you can also visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is progressive disease that starts with mild symptoms loss and can eventually lead to an inability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment. Alzheimer’s affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.

What are the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, so the symptoms gradually get worse. There are seven main stages:

Stages 1–3 Pre Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment:

  • Stage 1: There are no symptoms. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease and no symptoms, consider talking to a doctor about healthy aging.
  • Stage 2: Early symptoms like forgetfulness appear.
  • Stage 3: Mild physical and cognitive issues, such as memory loss and difficulty concentrating start to show. Learning new skills may become harder. These changes might only be noticeable to someone very close to the person.

Stage 4-7 Dementia:

Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at this stage, but it’s still mild. Memory loss and difficulty managing everyday tasks are common.

  • Stage 5: Moderate to severe symptoms require help from loved ones or caregivers to meet daily needs, like eating and managing at home.
  • Stage 6: A person with Alzheimer’s will need help with basic tasks, such as eating, dressing, using the toilet.
  • Stage 7: This is the most severe and final stage. There is usually a loss of speech and facial expressions. Movement becomes limited.
  • As a person goes through these stages, they’ll need more support from their caregivers. Talk to your doctors about ways to manage these changes. Proper care can help maintain comfort and quality of life as long as possible. 

What are the Facts of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Although many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s helpful to know the facts. Here are some keys details:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a long-term condition and not a normal part of aging.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, but they are not the same thing.
  • Symptoms come on gradually, and the brain slowly declines over time.
  • Anyone can get Alzheimer’s, but it’s more common in people over 65 and those with a family history of the condition.
  • There’s no single outcome for Alzheimer’s. Some people live a long time with mild symptoms, while others have faster progression.
  • There’s no cure yet, but treatment can slow the disease and improve quality of life.
  • Each person’s experience with Alzheimer’s is different.

What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Everyone forgets things sometimes. But people with Alzheimer’s disease have ongoing symptoms that get worse over time. These can include:

  • Memory loss affects daily activities, like keeping appointments.
  • Trouble with familiar tasks, like using a microwave.
  • Problems with problem-solving.
  • Trouble with speech and writing.
  • Getting confused about times or places
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and community

These signs don’t always mean someone has Alzheimer’s. It’s important to see a doctor to find out the cause. Symptoms change with the stage of the disease. In later stages, people with Alzheimer’s often have serious trouble talking, moving, or responding to their surroundings.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Experts haven’t found one single cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but they have identified some risk factors, including:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Genetics

Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease. It just raises your risk. Other possible risk factors include a history of:

What is the Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The only sure way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease is to examine the brain tissue after death. But doctors can use tests to assess mental abilities, diagnose dementia, and rule out other conditions. The doctors will probably start by asking about your:

  • Symptoms
  • Family medical history
  • Other current or past health conditions
  • Current or past medications
  • Diet, alcohol intake and other lifestyle habits
  • After that, your doctor will likely ask for several tests to help find out if you have Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the Tests for Alzheimer’s Disease?

There isn’t a sure test for Alzheimer’s disease. However, mental, physical, neurological, and imaging tests can help your doctor make a diagnosis. Your doctor might begin with a mental status test. This can help them evaluate your:

  • Short-term memory
  • Long-term memory
  • Orientation to place and time

For example, they may ask you:

  • What day it is
  • Who the president is
  • To remember and recall a short list of words
  • Next, they’ll likely conduct a physical exam, for example, they may:
  • Check your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Assess your heart rate
  • Take your temperature
  • Request urine and blood tests, in some cases

Your doctor might also do a neurological exam to rule out other possible diagnoses, like acute medical problems such as infection or strokes. During this exam, they’ll check:

  • Reflexes
  • Muscles tone
  • Speech

Your doctor might also request brain imaging studies. These studies create pictures of your brain and can include:

  • MRIs
  • CT scans

Your doctors might also perform blood tests to check for genes that could suggest a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the Medications of Alzheimer’s Disease?

There’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but your doctor can suggest medications and treatments to help manage symptoms and slow down the disease’s progression. For early to moderate Alzheimer’s, your doctor might prescribe medications like donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). These drugs can maintain high levels of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which helps nerve cells send and receive signals better, easing some symptoms. A new medication, aducanumab (Aduhelm), is only recommended for early Alzheimer’s, but there are concerns about its risks. For moderate to late-stage Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or memantine (Namenda). Memantine blocks the effects of excess glutamate, a brain chemical released in higher amounts in Alzheimer’s that damage brain cells. Your doctor might suggest antidepressants, anti-anxiety, medications or antipsychotics to manage symptoms like depression, sleep disorder, agitation, or hallucinations. These symptoms vary based on the disease’s progression, and they differ from person to person. Though the care needs of someone with Alzheimer’s will increase over time the specific symptoms vary from person to person.

What are the Treatments of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Besides medicines, changing your lifestyle can help you handle your condition. For example, your doctors might suggests way to:

  • Make tasks easier
  • Reduced confusion
  • Get enough sleep every day
  • Use relaxation method
  • Set up a calming place

Your doctor, along with a group of healthcare experts, can assist you in keeping up your quality of life throughout Alzheimer’s. This team might include:

  • A physical therapist to help with staying active.
  • A dietitian to maintain a healthy diet.
  • A pharmacist to keep an eye on medications.
  • A mental health expert who can work with both the person with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
  • A social worker to help find resources and support.
  • A respite care center to provide temporary care when caregivers need a break.
  • A hospice care center provides comfort and support towards the end of life.

Some studies suggest the vitamins E might slow down the decline in Alzheimer’s especially when taken with certain medications. But other research hasn’t found any benefits. More research is needed. Always check your doctor before taking vitamins E or any other supplements, as they might interfere with Alzheimer’s medications. Besides lifestyle changes there are other therapies you can talk to your doctor about.

Other Alzheimer’s Treatments:

Besides taking medicines, changing your lifestyle can help manage your condition. For example, your doctor might suggest ways to help you or your loved one:

  • Simplify tasks
  • Limit confusion
  • Get enough rest every day
  • Use relaxation techniques
  • Create a calming environment

Along with your doctor, a team healthcare professional can help you maintain your quality of life at all stages of Alzheimer’s. This care team may include:

  • A physical therapist to help with staying active.
  • A dietitian to maintain a balanced nutritious diet.
  • A pharmacist to help with monitoring medications
  • A mental health professional who may work with the person with Alzheimer’s as well as their caregivers.
  • A social worker to help with accessing resources and support.
  • A respite care center to provide short-term care for someone with Alzheimer’s when their caregivers are temporarily unavailable.
  • A hospice care center to manage symptoms in a comfortable and supportive setting at the end of life.

Some studies suggest that vitamin E might help slow down the loss of function in Alzheimer’s especially when taken with medications like donepezil, which increases acetylcholine in the brain. However, other research found no benefits from taking vitamin E for Alzheimer’s. Overall more evidence is needed. Always ask your doctor before taking vitamin E or any other supplements, as they can interfere with some Alzheimer’s medications. Besides lifestyle changes, you can also ask your doctor about various alternative and complementary therapies.

What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia?

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are sometimes used as if they mean the same thing, but they aren’t the same. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. Dementia is a broad term of conditions that involve memory loss, such as forgetfulness and confusion. It includes specific conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and others that cause these symptoms. The causes, symptoms, and treatments can be different for each of these conditions.

Alzheimer’s and Genetics:

While there’s no single cause of Alzheimer’s, genetics may play a key role. One important gene that researchers are studying is Apolipoprotein E (APOE), which has been linked to Alzheimer’s symptoms in older adults. Blood tests can show if you have a version of this gene that increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. However, having this gene doesn’t mean you will definitely get Alzheimer’s. Likewise, not having this gene doesn’t mean you won’t get Alzheimer’s. There’s no way to predict for sure who will develop the disease. Other genes may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. Some rare genes are linked to certain early-onset cases of the condition.

Early Onset Alzheimer’s:

Alzheimer’s usually affects people aged 65 and older, but it can also occur in people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. This is called younger onset or early onset. Alzheimer’s, and it affects fewer than 10% of all people with the condition. Diagnosing early onset Alzheimer’s can take a long time because doctors don’t usually look for it in younger adults. Early signs can include mild memory loss, trouble concentrating, difficulty finishing everyday tasks, finding the right words, and losing track of time. Some studies have found that certain changes in vision and eyes could indicate early stage Alzheimer’s for people in their 50s and older. People with a family history of younger onset Alzheimer’s are at greatest risk of developing it. Several rare genes can cause groups of cases in some families. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, you should talk with your doctor.

What is the Care of Alzheimer’s Disease?

As Alzheimer’s progresses, daily tasks become more challenging, and your loved one will need more support. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand what to expect and what your role in their future care may be. Caregiving can be tough, but it can also be very rewarding. Here are some ways to plan and prepare for caregiving:

  • Learn about Alzheimer’s, its stages, and common symptoms. By reading this article you’re already starting.
  • Connect with family members who can help.
  • Consider joining a support group for dementia caregivers.
  • Research professionals home care, respite care, and adult day care programs in your area.
  • Remember that you’ll need support, too. Reach out to people close to you and be open to accepting help.
  • As a caregiver, it’s crucial to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. Caregiving can be stressful, and the ongoing responsibilities can impact your health. A good care plan should include support for you, too.

What are the Statistics of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease has a significant impact in the United States:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s is the fifth most common cause of death for people aged 65 and older in the United States.
  • As of 2021, an estimated 6.2 million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s. This number could increase to 13.8 million by the year 2060.
  • Alzheimer’s is costly. The CDC reports that approximately $355 billion was spent on Alzheimer’s and dementia care costs in the United States in 2021.

What is the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease?

There’s no cure for Alzhiemer’s there aren’t any guaranteed ways to prevent it. Right now, the best things we can do are adopt healthy lifestyle habits to keep our brains sharp. Here are some steps that might help:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat well
  • Regular exercise
  • Keep your brain active
  • Maintain an active social life
  • Be sure to talk with your doctor before making any big changes in your lifestyles.     


What makes Alzheimer’s worse?

Other long-term health problems can make dementia progress more quickly. Conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, can speed up dementia, especially if they are not well managed.

What are the top 5 brain foods?

Are eggs OK for Alzheimer’s?

Proteins from eggs are preferable because they contain choline, which boosts brain function. This makes eggs an ideal choice for breakfast since they are both nutritious and quick to prepare. The choline in eggs helps improve brain function.

What to drink to study?

  • Coffee: While not ideal, black coffee, in moderation can keep you alert and focused.
  • Tea: Another good option for staying alert while studying.
  • Water: The best drink for studying, keeping you hydrated and focused.

Does Badam increase memory?

Nuts like almonds, pistachios, and macadamias each offer unique benefits, such as, almonds help improve memory, pistachios contain oils that preserve fatty acids and prevent inflammation, macadamias support normal brain function.

What are the foods to slow Alzheimer’s?

  • Antioxidants, berries, tea, dark chocolate, coffee.
  • Orange and red foods are high in carotenoids, fat-soluble.
  • Fish
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes and berries
  • Be mindful
  • Little steps, big wins.

Does rice cause brain fog?

Examples of refined carbohydrates include white bread and white rice. These refined grains can contribute to brain fog.

Can Alzheimer’s be cured?

There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is medication available that can temporarily reduce the symptoms.

What is the best time to study?

Scientists have found the best time for studying. According to research, the brain is most alert and teachable between 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 10pm (Source: Amber Student). If you want to optimize your attention span and practice deep learning, science suggests studying between 4 am and 7 am.  

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Dementia: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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