Alzheimer's disease: the symptoms and the first signs not to ignore
About 1 million people currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease in France. This neurodegenerative disease is an accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain, resulting in the progressive death of neurons.
Alzheimer's disease: who can be touched?
"It's a slow, silent and irreversible process, says Dr. Maï Panchal, Scientific Director of the Beating Alzheimer's Foundation. Alzheimer's disease can remain asymptomatic for 15 to 20 years, which means it can wreak havoc in the brain without any visible symptoms."
Despite the progress of research, we still do not fully understand the functioning of Alzheimer's disease. However, scientists know that some risk factors modifiable and non-modifiable (that is to say, on which one can act, or not) promote the development of the disease:
- Age is the main risk factor, since the majority of Alzheimer's patients are over 65,
- Genetics: we now know that about forty genes modulate the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Thus, 33% of the carriers of the ApoE4 gene have Alzheimer's disease at age 75
- High blood pressure is a modifiable risk factor that can be acted on early,
- Same for type 2 diabetes, smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.
"It is often said that women are more affected by Alzheimer's disease: after the age of 80, it's true, but that's partly because women live longer than men"completes Dr. Panchal.
Alzheimer's disease: pay attention to memory loss!
When we think of Alzheimer's disease, we immediately think of the famous "blackoutsYet, as Dr. Panchal explains, it's a bit more complicated than that: "In the person who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, the ability to record new information is deteriorating. It's not that she "does not remember anymore" because she can not remember, since the information she's looking for has never been written into her memory."
An example : you park your car in the parking lot of the supermarket, you do your shopping, you come back to the car park and there, you have forgotten where your vehicle is ...
"The person who suffers from Alzheimer's will have a "black hole": she will be totally unable to remember the location of her car. Whereas the person who has "simply" memory loss will eventually find the information (after several minutes, hours, days ...)."
In short, it will be understood, Alzheimer's disease corresponds to an inability to acquire new information: nothing to do with the "hole of memory" passenger!
here are the first signs of Alzheimer's disease to pay attention to:
- Recent memory loss: the person is unable to remember what she ate at breakfast, what she just said, what she just did ...
- Repetitive questions: the person asks the same questions several times during the day
- Anosognosia: the person does not realize that they have memory problems or minimize them
- A disorientation: the person is easily lost, is unable to find his way in familiar places, no longer remembers the routes that it often takes,
- Disorders of the language: the person forgets the simplest words, she expresses herself with difficulty
- Planning worries: the person becomes unable to set and respect an appointment
- At a later stage, the person may have temporal confusion: what day are we? What season
"Often, people who carefully note their memory lapses and go to the doctor with a long list of forgetfulness will not typically have the profile of the Alzheimer's patient", says Dr. Panchal.
Alzheimer's disease: who can we consult?
"If you feel that your memory is declining, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your GP to prescribe a blood test: in addition to Alzheimer's disease, certain conditions can have an impact on memory - thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, depression ... "
In France, only neurologists, geriatricians and psychiatrists are authorized to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. "Some doctors sometimes minimize the memory problems of their patients, which can lead to situations of diagnostic wandering: if this distresses you, do not hesitate to make an appointment yourself with a specialist"advises Dr. Panchal.
One last tip? "Do not give too much credit to "tests" on the internet that promise you a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in 5 questions: trust a specialist instead!"
Thanks to Dr. Maï Panchal, researcher and scientific director of the foundation Overcoming Alzheimer's.
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