Approaches to Manage Alzheimer’s Disease

Abstract

Dementia affect a high proportion of the elderly thus are a significant public health concern. Among these Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common. This paper describes AD and reviews the treatment and management approaches that could alleviate the development of the condition. The description of the disease includes its definition, symptoms, causes and risk factors. Although there exists no cure after the condition has developed, preventative approaches that include medications such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and N-methyl-D-asparate (NMDA), suggested in literature are reviewed. Other preventative approaches identified in the reviewed literature include dietary and exercise measures that help maintain the neurocognitive health of the elderly.

Keywords: Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, AD, cognitive degeneration

 Introduction

Dementia is a main public health concern with increasing aging of global population and high prevalence and incidence of the disease in such populations, aggravating the situation. It is characterized by cognitive degeneration to the extent of significantly curtailing daily functioning in the social and professional arenas (Fratiglioni, Winblad & von Strauss, 2007). Among the causes of Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most implicated in the elderly population, with is contribution estimated to range between 60-70% of all dementia cases Fratiglioni, Winblad & von Strauss, 2007, p. 98). The challenge to public health is heightened by projections indicating that the elderly population (65 and above years) – the most implicated in dementia cases – is increasing globally. For instance, projections to the year 2030 indicate that the countries with more than 2 million elderly citizen population (65 years and bove), will have increased to 60 from 26 nations that had such a population in 1990 (Kinsella & Velkoff, as cited in Fratiglioni, Winblad & von Strauss, 2007, p. 98). Additionally, such elderly population especially in the developed nations is suggested to age progressively, with indications that the oldest proportion among this population (80 years and above), in the developed nations, is increasingly becoming the highest (Kinsella & Velkoff, as cited in Fratiglioni, Winblad & von Strauss, 2007, p. 98).

Secondly, Dementia’s increasing challenge to public health is evident from its high prevalence and incident rates. For instance, AD is suggested to be the “sixth leading cause of all deaths in the United States and … fifth leading cause of death in Americans aged ≥ 65 years” (Alzheimer’s association, 2011, p. 208). Additionally, despite the deaths contributed by other major causes (e.g. heart disease and stroke) declining in recent years, those contributed by AD are suggested to be increasing (Alzheimer’s association, 2011). AD is estimated to affect 5.4 million Americans, with only 200,000 cases being identified to affect individuals aged less-than-65 years, who have not inherited the condition (Alzheimer’s association, 2011, p. 208). Thus, AD is more prevalent in the older generation (≥ 65 years). With respect to incidence, estimates are that current rates in the US are one case of AD developing in every 69 seconds, with this rate expected to aggravate to 33 seconds by the year 2050, due to estimated increase in the proportion of the elderly in the society (Alzheimer’s association, 2011, p. 208). Thirdly, the effect of dementia is indicated due to its attribution to be a leading cause of disability, institutionalization and mortality in the older population (Fratiglioni, Winblad & von Strauss, 2007).

Such statistics evidence the challenge posed by AD in enhancing public health in terms of affecting the quality of life of the elderly and consuming economic resources that, among other aspects, could be used in enhancing the care for the elderly. For instance, according to the Alzheimer’s association (2011, p. 208), as much as 15 million families and other volunteers are engaged in the care of people with AD, a contribution that is estimated to consume 17 billion hours of care whose value is estimated to surpass $202 billion. Comparable statistics have also been suggested in a study assessing AD’s economic effect in Europe (Wimo et al., 2008). Accordingly, effective approaches to managing the condition could help alleviate the effect of AD to society. The subject of this paper is thus to describe the condition and highlight the preventative and treatment approaches that could aid in averting the incidence of AD. Firstly, a brief overview of AD comprised of its definition, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and risk factors are presented. Subsequently, approaches to AD treatment, as evaluated in research are reviewed. Go to part 2 here.

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