As adults age, many notice changes in memory and thinking abilities. At first these changes may be so subtle they are easy to explain away as normal aging, and they may be just that.
However, it’s also possible these changes are the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of a medical condition called dementia, which affects thinking, behaviour, and the ability to perform everyday tasks.
In the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s may notice everyday tasks becoming more difficult to perform than before. Some typical early symptoms of AD include facing increased problems with memory; struggling to find the right words for things; becoming confused about time or place; having trouble managing money or paying bills; experiencing changes in mood, personality, or judgment; and misplacing or being unable to find things.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s arise because of slow ongoing injury to different parts of the brain. The disease progresses over time, leading to worsening symptoms, and it can ultimately cause death.
However, studies suggest that early diagnosis and intervention could potentially slow the course of the disease and may help protect the brain from further injury.
Furthermore, early diagnosis allows people to consider participating in a clinical study investigating new potential treatments.
The good news is there are tools available that might help doctors diagnose AD in its early stages, including various lab tests, written tests, and interviews.
Currently, the only approved therapies for Alzheimer’s disease help address some of its more advanced symptoms. However, there are ongoing efforts to develop treatment that — if approved — may delay, stop, or prevent the progression of AD. In addition, studies suggest a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, social interaction, and cognitive stimulation may be helpful.
For decades, a large and growing community of health-care providers, research scientists, universities, patient advocacy organizations, and pharmaceutical companies has been committed to battling the disease.
Each year, their efforts yield promising new discoveries. More than 500 clinical studies with many thousands of participants across the globe — including patients in the Thompson and Okanagan regions — are helping to advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s and potential treatments for this disease.