“Unwillingness” to try new things is an early sign of Alzheimer’s, says a GP.

According to the NHS, approximately one in fourteen people over the age of 65 will have Alzheimer’s disease during their lifetime. And the risk of this increases to one in six after age 80. While there is no cure, there are a number of treatments available.

As with any disease, the sooner you detect symptoms, the sooner you can seek treatment.

With that in mind, Dr. Rihanna McClimont of digital health provider Livi shared some of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s to watch out for.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

“Alzheimer’s disease is a physical disease that causes shrinkage of brain tissue (called ‘atrophy’) and death of brain cells,” she said.

“It’s a progressive disease, which means a gradual decline in brain function over time.”

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What are the causes of Alzheimer’s disease?

She explained: “In a healthy brain, billions of nerve cells connect to each other, and chemicals play an important role in the exchange of messages between these cells.

“In Alzheimer’s disease, proteins can accumulate in the brain and create ‘plaques’ or ‘tangles’, causing these connections to be lost.”

“There is also a drop in the levels of chemical messengers in your brain, and signals are not being transmitted efficiently between cells.

“Over time, more and more parts of the brain are affected, and eventually there is loss of brain tissue and death of nerve cells.”

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Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

“The symptoms of Alzheimer’s get worse over time, and they can usually be categorized into early, middle, and advanced stages,” Dr. McClimont said.

“The rate of progression is different for everyone, and other conditions, such as a stroke, can affect it.

“In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the main signs and symptoms are related to memory problems and can often be seen as a normal part of aging.”

Early stage symptoms include “inflexibility” and “unwillingness” to try new things.

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Other early signs may be:

  • Don’t remember recent conversations or interactions
  • Trouble remembering names and places
  • Trouble remembering the correct word
  • Don’t remember where you left things like your phone and keys.
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling of excitement and confusion.

“Many of the symptoms get worse early on, such as having difficulty remembering the names of family members and friends and starting to have difficulty knowing who they are,” she said.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Getting lost easily – you can get lost in familiar places or wander around for no reason
  • Communication problems with speech and language
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood and emotion changes such as mood swings, anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety.
  • Delusion, paranoia, or suspicion and distrust of caregivers
  • Hallucinations when you see or hear things that are not there.
  • Needs help and support with daily activities such as dressing, washing, and eating.

Dr. McClimont added: “The later stages of Alzheimer’s disease can be distressing for people with the disease, their caregivers and relatives.

“During this stage, symptoms become more severe and ongoing care is usually required to help with movement, eating, and other daily activities.”

Later stage symptoms may include:

  • Vivid hallucinations and delusions
  • Increased mood swings and emotional problems that can escalate into violence
  • Difficulty with speech or loss of speech over time
  • Problems with eating and swallowing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence.

What should I do if I am concerned about Alzheimer’s disease?

She advised: “If your or someone else’s memory is bothering you, it’s best to see a therapist as soon as possible.

“There are many other causes of minor memory loss, including stress, anxiety and depression, certain medications, and other health conditions, so a therapist will start with a few simple treatments to rule them out. If a therapist is not sure if you have Alzheimer’s, they will refer you to a specialist, such as a geriatrician (a doctor who specializes in caring for the elderly) or a memory clinic.

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