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Alzheimer disease, symptoms of AlzheimersThe Progression of Alzheimer Disease

Editor's Note:  For a full review of Alheimer's Disease, with complimentary audio files, visit the "Understanding Alzheimer's Disease" section.

Alzheimer’s is a disorder characterized by the loss of brain function. Alzheimer disease involves a steady deterioration of brain function that results in progressive loss of memory, recognition, personality and mental powers.  It can start as early as age 40 but is more prevalent in seniors over the age of 65.

The areas of the brain first targeted by the disease are associated with memory, so the first observable symptoms are usually mild forms of amnesia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the more general condition known as "dementia." Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe any progressive damage to the areas of the brain that control memory or any other cognitive function.

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The First Sign of Alzheimer's - Memory Loss

The earliest stages of Alzheimer’s all involve symptoms associated with memory loss. Affected individuals may have a hard time remembering what day or month it is. They may find themselves losing items more frequently than normal, forgetting recent events, or feeling confused and disoriented in familiar environments. Normally, old memories are unaffected in these earlier stages. An affected person will recognize old friends and family, but may not have any clear memory of recent interactions with them.

Alzheimer's Behavioral Changes and Loss of Motor Skills

As Alzheimer’s progresses, the affected person often begins exhibiting difficult behavior. Alzheimer's victims often become paranoid, quick to anger, and over reactive to minor things.  Some suffer from hallucinations and can even become violent. The aggressive behaviors brought on by Alzheimer's may manifest in individuals who were once shy, timid, or passive people prior to developing the disease.

Someone in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s will generally begin to lose motor control and will need help dressing and performing everyday personal hygiene functions. They often also lose the ability to speak clearly, read or write. At this stage in the disease, older memories become affected and afflicted people may not recognize family members or life long friends.

Final Stages of Alzheimer's

In the later and final stages of Alzheimer disease, individuals generally experience complete memory loss and are unable to recognize anyone. They will be unable to communicate, walk, participate in personal care activities, or eat on their own. Sufferers in these late stages may become incontinent and begin to lose a lot of weight. They often spend most of their time sleeping and frequently suffer from seizures. Alzheimer’s will eventually lead to death due to loss of brain function.

Alzheimer's Treatments

While there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s, there are some treatments available that can slow the condition down, and there are some promising new treatments on the horizon. Increased understanding of biology and the human genetic code have many scientists hopeful for effective preventive measures and possibly even cures in the near future. Already, there are results from a number of recent studies that suggest that certain life behaviors, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, can help reduce the chances of developing the disease.