Age Matters Clinic


Toronto Geriatric Assessment and Memory Clinic

Alzheimer's Affects Intellectuals & Poor-Education People


Alzheimer's disease is a common medical disorder that progressively destroys memory and cognitive functions. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia globally. As the disease progresses, the individual loses social skills and intellectual function. These changes are so severe that eventually most individuals are not able to look after themselves. Initially Alzheimer's disease presents with mild confusion or forgetfulness that is just mistaken for anxiety or stress. But over time, the disorder becomes severe. What causes Alzheimer's disease and why it occurs in some people is not known.

The one major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is advanced aged. For many years it was believed that Alzheimer disease always occurred in individuals with poor education or those who were not intellectually stimulated in their younger years. However, this is erroneous thinking because now it appears that Alzheimer's disease also affects intellectuals and intelligent people. Among the intelligent people who have been affected with Alzheimer's was Omar Sharif, who was great actor and a bona fide world class bridge player. In Alzheimer's disease, the nerve cells gradually start to die which results in a steady decline in mental function and memory.

The aim of treatment is help Alzheimer patients maintain their independence and have maximum function. Today there are several medications used to treat Alzheimer's dementia. While these medications can temporarily improve the behavior symptoms, they also have potent adverse effects. In the majority of cases, the disease becomes so severe that these patients end up in nursing homes.

The rate at which the dementia progresses varies from individual to individual. One of the first features of Alzheimer's is the inability to remember things or having difficulty organizing thoughts. These changes are frequently noticed by other people but usually attributed to advancing age.

As the memory loss starts to get more severe, one starts to lose the ability to function at home or even at work. The individual starts to forget conversations and misplaces things. Later there are behavioral changes that lead to disorientation, inability to reason, unable to make decisions or perform even the most basic tasks. Even the most routine activities like dressing become a struggle. The personality changes in Alzheimer's can vary from depression, social withdrawl, anxiety, mood swings, paranoia, irritability and lack of trust in others. Wandering around aimlessly is common and eventually these individuals become impossible to care for.

The cause of Alzheimer's remains a mystery but it is believed that genes, lifestyle and perhaps the environment may affect the nerve cells over time. As nerve cells start to die, the brain starts to shrink. Even though doctors have identified various protein molecules in the brain of Alzheimer patients, the significance of these plagues and tangles is not clear. Even though the exact cause of Alzheimer disease is not known there are some risk factors that can increase the risk of one developing the disorder. These risk factors include lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure, lack of vegetables and fruits in diet, high blood pressure and poorly controlled diabetes. Experts suggest that since there is no treatment for the dementia, the best advice is to try and prevent it by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and discontinuing smoking.