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About Alzheimer's

Warning Signs                                Stages                                Diagnosis

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia. It is NOT a part of normal aging, but a disease involving the progressive loss of brain nerve cells. Since these nerve cells are essential for normal thought, memory and other brain functions, people with Alzheimer's Disease suffer a decline of mental functions which eventually interferes with the patient's normal daily activities.

Over time, Alzheimer's Disease patients lose their ability to perform even the most basic activities of daily living like brushing one's teeth, putting on clothes, bathing, etc. In the end, the ability to walk and talk may be lost as well.

Known as the disease of "The Long Goodbye", the illness often stretches over 10 and even 20 years. Despite intensive research in recent years, the disease is still not yet fully understood, and there is still no known cure.

Those most at risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease are the elderly, and the risk increases with age. According to statistics worldwide, one in 20 of those aged 65 and above have Alzheimer's Disease. However, amongst those aged 80 and above, one in five have Alzheimer's Disease. There is also a smaller group of people who may develop what is called Early Onset Alzheimer's from as young as their 40s or even late 30s.

Other major risk factors include genetic predisposition such as having certain genes or chromosomes, and a family history of Parkinson's Disease and/or Down's Syndrome. Minor risk factors include belonging to the female gender, and head injury.

At present, 18m people worldwide have the disease. By 2020, 34m. In Malaysia, it is estimated that there are currently about 50,000 people with the disease. However, most of them are not diagnosed. This is because relatives think that the symptoms displayed are a normal part of growing old and thus do not seek medical advice on it.

Alzheimer's Disease affects not only the patients themselves, but also profoundly changes the lives of family members and close friends. Someone they love and care for gradually disintegrates as a person. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease is sometimes referred to as a "36-hour-a-day" task. However, proper understanding of the disease and management of the patient can reduce the burden considerably and greatly improve the quality of life for patients, their caregivers and families.