Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, according to the Hong Kong government’s Elderly Health Service. Around 65% of all reported cases of dementia in the region are due to Alzheimer’s and it is on the increase, with up to a third of the SAR’s senior citizens aged 80 and older, expected to suffer from some form of dementia by 2050.
Common symptoms include confusion, memory loss, difficulty communicating, anxiousness and paranoia.
Dementia is marked by a progressive decline in cognitive and intellectual functioning, which includes memory, comprehension, language and judgment, such as:
- Reduced ability to take in and remember new information (e.g. forgetting events, appointments; misplacing personal belongs, repetitive questions or conversations)
- Impairments to reasoning and exercising judgment (e.g. poor understanding of safety risk, inability to manage finance)
- Inability to recognise objects and faces Difficulty thinking of common words while speaking, hesitating
- Changes in personality and behaviour, (e.g. mood swings, agitation, social withdrawal, lack of interest, motivation
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease - this means there is progressive brain cell death which happens years before symptoms appear.
It's thought to be caused by an abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells which causes a decrease in neurotransmitters that send messages between brain cells.
Several factors are known to increase your risk of developing this condition:
What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and normal ageing?
Changes to the brain tissue, including the build-up of abnormal protein structures called amyloid plaques and tau tangles characterise Alzheimer’s disease. While the actual origins and causes of Alzheimer’s are still unclear, many scientists and medical professionals believe these changes lie at the root of this disease.
While many people experience some decline in their cognitive abilities as they grow older, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are not considered a normal part of the ageing process.
For example, while people may have difficulty recalling the names of acquaintances as part of normal age-associated memory impairment, people with dementia will have problems recognising and remembering the name of family members.
Normal age-related impairments may lead people to occasionally forget events and things, while people with dementia will forget them frequently. By the middle to late stages of dementia, the cognitive impairment will substantially affect sufferers’ ability to carry out day to day tasks.
While dementia is not a normal part of the ageing process, age is a risk factor for the disease. Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia increases as you age.
What should I do if I suspect I may have Alzheimer’s disease?
Many people start to develop the brain damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease as early as their late 30s even though the symptoms themselves only appear later in the mid-60s. This means once the symptoms begin, it is important to see a practitioner and address them quickly.
Getting assistance with diagnosis via medical imaging, cognitive exams and other memory-based testing is an important step in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Other illnesses can have similar signs and symptoms, such as Parkinson’s disease, depression or past strokes. These tests can also give both the practitioner and the patient a clearer idea of the path forward.
At IMI, a naturopathic doctor will begin by profiling your DNA; particular configurations of genes within the APOE 4 group of DNA can greatly increase the functional tendencies that can lead the brain towards Alzheimer’s disease.
Testing your DNA profile and your digestive functionality can help identify any factors which may be aggravating your condition, such as nutritional deficiencies, thyroid functionality, mercury toxicity, hormonal imbalances.