Mental Health

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Causes It And Can It Be Prevented?

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Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible progressive brain damage that affects memory, thinking skills, and other cognitive abilities. While the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not fully known yet, some factors can increase the risk of developing the condition. For instance, elderly people, and people with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or depression are at increased risk of developing it. While scientists continue to research the reason for the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, there are some early signs that one should look out for and seek the advice of a health expert in such cases.

Who is at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease?

Multiple factors can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Age: People over the age of 65 years are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, in rare cases (one in 20), people between the age of 40 to 65 years may also be at risk of developing the condition, known as early or young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Gender: Women (over 65 years of age) are more affected by Alzheimer’s disease than men. It is believed that this happens because women (on average) live longer than men. The loss of estrogen hormone post-menopause may also increase the risk of developing the disease.
  • Family history: People with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to develop the disease as compared to those without the history.
  • Lifestyle: Those who live an unhealthy lifestyle, especially from mid-life onwards, are more likely to develop the disease. Eating calorie-rich food, lack of exercise, excessive smoking, and alcohol consumption have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: People suffering from depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and heart problems in their mid-life are considered to be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease?

While memory loss and confusion are the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, other symptoms must not be ignored. Early identification and treatment can help in reducing the progression of the disease. A few early signs of the disease include:

1. Trouble performing daily familiar tasks

With age, people may need help or assistance with new and unfamiliar things, and that may not indicate any disease. However, if the person finds it difficult to perform daily tasks, it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. For instance,

  • Not being able to recognize a familiar location
  • Inability to lock the door or get dressed
  • Unable to make a grocery list.

2. Forgetting basic things

While elderly people tend to forget simple things such as the names of people, those with Alzheimer’s develop a noticeable memory loss, which includes:

  • Inability to remember things that were learned recently
  • Getting lost in the neighbourhood
  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • Asking about the same information repeatedly
  • Relying on memory aids such as book notes, alarms or electronic reminders.

3. Inability to make a decision or plan things

People with Alzheimer’s disease may find it difficult to plan something or make decisions. They struggle to stay focused and are unable to solve problems. They also find it hard to follow directions written in a recipe or product. They also struggle to keep track of their monthly chores such as paying bills, which they could do easily before.

4. Confusion with date, time and directions

As age progresses, people tend to forget important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. However, people living with Alzheimer's lose track of dates and sometimes even seasons. They fail to realize the passage of time and forget where they are or how they reached there. They also find it difficult to recall things from the past.

5. Difficulty in speech and writing

People suffering from Alzheimer’s can have trouble keeping up in a conversation or struggle to figure out what to say next. These people can be seen repeating themselves frequently. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and struggle with finishing up their sentence. Sometimes, they also find it difficult to write down or express their feelings.

6. Frequent behaviour change

People with early-onset Alzheimer’s may experience a sudden change in their personality and behaviour. Such individuals may become overly suspicious, use offensive language, and get agitated, depressed, fearful or anxious all of a sudden. These quick changes can especially be seen when the person is out of their comfort zone.

Is Alzheimer's disease curable?

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but medications and therapy can help in reducing the symptoms.

1. Medications for Alzheimer’s disease

Medications such as Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors and antidepressants are generally prescribed by doctors to help in reducing increased agitation, anxiety, delusions and hallucinations.

2. Therapies for Alzheimer’s disease

Along with medications, sometimes certain therapies are also recommended for Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Cognitive stimulation therapy: This therapy involves engaging the person in different group activities and exercises to enhance their memory and improve their problem-solving abilities.
  • Cognitive rehabilitation therapy: In this therapy, an occupational therapist or a partner helps the person achieve daily goals and simple activities such as buttoning down their shirt or using a mobile phone.

Friends and family can encourage the affected person to exercise their minds by reading books or solving puzzles. Regular exercising and eating a balanced diet are equally important to keep the mind healthy.  

Can Alzheimer's disease be prevented?

Since the cause of the condition has not been fully understood, not much is known about the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. However, by reducing the risk factors, one can decrease the risk of developing the condition. Such measures include:

  • Consuming a healthy, balanced diet filled with at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Quitting smoking completely.
  • Limiting the consumption of alcohol to an occasional indulgence.
  • Practising moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking, swimming or cycling for 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes every day).
  • Ensuring timely medications for diabetes and high blood pressure, and getting the blood pressure and blood sugar levels checked frequently.
  • Training the brain by reading books, learning new skills, and participating in new activities or sports - all of these are known to improve cognitive abilities significantly.


Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (a decline in cognitive skills), which does not have a cure yet. Recognizing the early signs of Alzheimer’s may help in reducing the rate of progression of the disease and improve the quality of life of the person. Medical care along with continuous support from friends and family can help in increasing the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Talk to a mental health expert for any questions on mental health. 


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