North Texas Institute of Neurology and Headache

5425 W. Spring Creek Pkwy

Suite 275
Plano, TX 75024
Phone: (972) 403-8184
Fax: (972) 403-0685

 

 
 
 

Alzheimer's Disease

Karen Bontia, MD | Neurology | contact us

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the older population. Dementia is a progressive disease which affects memory, thinking, reasoning, and behavior. Dementia ranges in severity from very mild where a patient only has mild memory loss, to very severe where they have lost the ability to care for themselves.

We still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have found increased protein deposit in brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patient but we don’t know exactly what causes that. It is likely that a combination of genetics, lifestyle and environmental exposure play a role in causing the disease.

The most common risk factor is older age. The disease usually starts manifesting itself at age 60, but the risk doubles every 5 years after age 65. Most people have no family history of Alzheimer’s but there are a small group of patients which have familial Alzheimer’s. Scientists have identified a few genes (i.e.apolipoprotein E gene) which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but note that carrying this gene does not automatically mean that one will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the symptoms?

Alzheimer’s disease starts out with problems with short term memory. Patients can forget names of words, forget recent conversations, have a tendency to misplace things and ask same questions repeatedly. As it gets worse, they start getting lost while driving, have difficulty doing familiar (i.e. cooking), and may find simple things confusing. Patients can also become irritable, angry, and even violent. When severe, patients have difficulty communicating and are unable to do activities of daily living independently (i.e. feeding, bathing, dressing).

How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed?

The only way to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease is to look at brain tissue. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary. Your doctor can make a presumptive diagnosis based on clinical history, comprehensive physical and neurological exam, and memory testing. Blood tests and imaging of the brain are needed to rule out other diseases which can cause memory problems. If a patient has an unusual presentation, rapid progression of symptoms, or other symptoms not typical for Alzheimer’s disease, lumbar puncture and more specialized imaging study may be performed.

What is the treatment?

There is still no cure available to treat Alzheimer’s disease. There are currently four medications available which can help slow down the disease which allows the patient to stay independent longer. There are also medications available to help with behavioral symptoms, if needed.

What can I do if I am diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia?

- Stay physically active. Do light aerobic exercise at least 20 minutes a day, five times a week. - Keep the brain engaged. Do mentally-stimulating activities like crossword puzzles, memory games, etc. Stay in contact with friends and family, social interactions are also mentally-stimulating. - Eat healthy. There is increasing evidence about the benefit of a Mediterrean diet in delaying onset and progression of cognitive and memory difficulties. A Mediterrean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes fish and seafood.

Contact Details

Location
6750 N. MacArthur Blvd, Suite 250,Irving, TX 75039

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