With more than 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. alone and 50 million people suffering from the disease scattered around the globe, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has affected many lives.
For years, the disease has sparked numerous debates over its adverse impacts on seniors over 65 and kept health experts conducting countless studies to find the best possible treatment. But did you know that Alzheimer’s can extend to younger and healthy individuals in their 40s and 50s?
Continue reading to learn about early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, including symptoms, causes, and preventions.
What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Despite being rare, scientists believe that younger adults may be at risk of developing Alzheimer’s at a much younger age. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD), or younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, is a term used to describe Alzheimer’s symptoms that appear in younger individuals during their 40s and 50s.
What is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a widespread, irreversible brain condition that affects people aged 65 and older with the ability to destroy memory and thinking skills. In contrast to the popular belief that Alzheimer’s disease often comes with old age, the condition is not necessarily an inevitable part of aging.
Symptoms of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
The symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease are closely similar to Alzheimer’s. In some ways, people affected by early-onset Alzheimer’s don’t exhibit memory decline as severely as people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, who may no longer recognize family members or forget how to use a pen or fork.
It may start subtly with misplacing items and aimlessly wandering into a room. Sometimes, the symptoms are so ambiguous that they might lead to misdiagnosis and delayed treatment, causing the condition to progress more quickly.
The disease may adversely impact an individual with the following struggles on a daily basis:
- Ask the same questions again and again
- Vision problems
- Have trouble handling basic problems
- Speech impairment (difficulty speaking or expressing their thoughts)
- Have trouble making decisions
- Delay household activities and regular work duties
- Keep forgetting important information and appointments
- Lose track of time, date, month, or year
- Lose track of where they are or how did they get there
- Misplace items often and are unable to find them
- Poor judgment
- Changes in personality and mood
- Tend to avoid work and social events
In later stages, people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease may experience symptoms as follows:
- Severe memory loss
- Severe mood and behavior changes
- Increasing confusion about time, date, location, and life events
- Have physical difficulty with speaking, swallowing, or walking
- Suspicions about friends, family, and caregivers
What Causes Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Despite claims that the condition is not a natural part of increasing age, scientists have yet to figure out the exact cause of the early onset of AD in most patients.
Some health experts believe that the accumulation of two brain proteins, tangles (tau) and plagues (amyloid-beta), may gradually contribute to brain cell destruction. Others suspect early-onset Alzheimer’s disease may run in families, given several studies indicating that at least 80% of Alzheimer’s disease cases have resulted from abnormal gene changes, according to NCBI. The earlier the symptoms emerge, the higher chance they are caused by genetic factors.
Deterministic genes, such as amyloid precursor protein, Presenilin-1, and Presenilin-2, have accounted for less than 5% of familial Alzheimer’s disease cases, making future generations of AD patients more likely to develop the disease than others many years ahead.
How to Diagnose Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
With a rather vaguely extensive range of symptoms, an accurate diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in people under age 65 is critical, even though it can be a long and exhausting process.
Healthcare providers might need to conduct multiple tests to confirm whether or not a person has early-onset AD. For the most part, doctors will perform a comprehensive medical examination and family medical history assessment, accompanied by some imaging tests that allow them to have a detailed brain image.
MORE TO EXPLORE: 4 Must-Know Dementia Care Mistakes & How To Avoid Them
Dealing With Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
For families dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, early detection helps them respond and take appropriate measures while giving them more time to handle legal and financial issues.
It’s best to stay proactive when dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. While there is no definitive cure for AD, early interventions can prevent the symptoms from worsening. Most of the time, doctors will prescribe medications and suggest sufficient therapies to help with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease management that patients can practice easily.
Although Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, available medications have been proven to help relieve the symptoms, improve memory, and reduce confusion. So far, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Medications that may change disease progression: Medications falling in this category help hinder the progression while also bringing benefits to cognitive functions.
- Medications that may temporarily reduce some symptoms: In contrast to progression-suppressing Alzheimer’s medications, medicines in this category focus on alleviating both cognitive and non-cognitive symptoms. In addition to significant impacts on memory and thinking, Alzheimer’s disease can also cause mood and behavioral changes in those with the disease. Particularly, hallucinations, Alzheimer’s rage, insomnia, and delusions can negatively affect how they live their everyday lives, contributing to poor quality of life.
In some cases, doctors may suggest sleeping pills or antidepressants for treating prevalent problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, and night terrors. Common medications for managing non-cognitive symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease may include:
Therapies & Preventions
Aside from medications, some approachable therapies have the potential to help with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, such as staying physically, socially, and mentally active, training cognitive functions, considering taking herbs and supplements, and implementing stress-reducing strategies. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for extra support from family, friends, or social groups for those with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, a healthy lifestyle can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some steps you can use to prevent the disease proactively:
- Cut down on alcohol intake
- Quit smoking
- Adopting a balanced diet packed with fresh fruits and vegetables (Mediterranean diet)
- Check blood pressure regularly
- Exercising at least 30 minutes daily or engaging in alternatives with the same impact.
- Get enough sleep
Get a Hold of Alzheimer’s Disease at 12 Oaks Communities
With advanced memory care approaches, we offer tailored programs to assist seniors with Alzheimer’s and ensure that the program meets each person’s unique needs and requirements.
Our team is available 24 hours a day to support residents, including taking care of their hygiene needs. Our primary focus is to keep your family members living with dignity. We also have specially designed programs to work on their memory and agility.
The 12 Oaks approach to Alzheimer’s care is research-driven and is up to date on the latest treatments and best practices for helping residents. Our team becomes an extension of your family, creating a safe home environment for various accessible living options.
If you have questions about early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for questions or to schedule a personalized tour.
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