Alzheimer's Disease Definition

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that affects a person’s memory and cognitive skills. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and also causes a gradual decline in memory, thinking, behaviour and social skills.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it affects an individual’s ability to carry out daily tasks. People frequently experience forgetfulness and may forget faces, times, visual images and spatial orientation. For that reason, many individuals with Alzheimer’s disease need assistance with daily life activities, including personal care, household chores, and social interactions.

It usually develops after the age of 60, but it can appear years before or after this age. Also, before showing apparent and severe symptoms, Alzheimer’s disease can appear with mild cognitive impairment years before the actual onset.

Find out the common causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease and how to find the best care and support for your loved one.

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Common Risk Factors

Experts suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by excessive protein build-up in and around brain cells. These proteins, such as amyloid, tend to form plaques around the brain cells, interfering with the normal transmission of nerve signals.

The process reduces the levels of acetylcholine, one of the most important neurotransmitters, causing different brain areas to shrink. While it is still unknown what triggers the process, experts believe it begins years before the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease appear.

In addition, scientists outline several potential risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease, and we will discuss each one respectively.

The Role of Age

Age is one of the most prevalent factors for Alzheimer’s disease and for most types of dementia. This means people are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they age. The average age is 65, and the risk doubles every five years after this age.

There are also cases of Alzheimer’s disease appearing under the age of 65. For example, 1 in 20 people are under 60 years old. This is called early, or young-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and it can appear as early as the age of 40. However, these are rare occasions, and the average age for Alzheimer’s diagnosis is 75-84.


Genetics also play a key role in developing progressive memory loss. There are certain genes that can be inherited from a parent that can influence a person’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

More precisely, these genes can be divided into two groups: ‘familial’ genes and ‘risk’ genes.

Familial genes: These will can cause Alzheimer’s disease if they are passed down from a parent. Numbers show that less than 10 out of 1000 people with Alzheimer’s have the condition due to the familial gene.

Risk genes: These genes increase a person’s chance of getting Alzheimer’s. They are more frequently present than familial genes. However, unlike familial genes, not everyone with risk genes will develop the condition.


Lifestyle has proved to be an important risk factor in developing dementia and conditions related to progressive memory loss. Based on Alzheimer’s Association, people who practice a healthy lifestyle, particularly from age 40 onwards, have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

A healthy lifestyle includes avoiding smoking and alcohol and having a diverse and balanced diet. Physical activity and regular exercise are also essential for maintaining good health and mental hygiene.

Other Medical Conditions

There are many health problems and conditions that can potentially lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, including:

While these are commonly known risk factors, it’s important to note that there is no general rule that can predict the risks of developing degenerative memory challenges. If you believe that you or your loved one might be showing some symptoms of memory loss, it would be beneficial to learn the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and seek medical advice.

Early diagnosis can significantly improve the independence and quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s.

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Early Warning Signs

Mild cognitive impairments such as challenges with thinking, memory and concentration are typical in ageing. However, they do not interfere with a person’s daily life. With Alzheimer’s disease, these difficulties are much more severe, affecting the day-to-day functioning of individuals.

Whether you’re worried about yourself or a loved one, it’s important to learn the warning signs of Alzheimer’s to ensure an early diagnosis.

Here are the most common early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory Loss

One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in the early stages, is forgetting recent events and recently learned information. Other symptoms include the inability to remember the right word, forgetting important dates, and asking the same questions again.

In time, memory loss related to Alzheimer’s disease progresses and starts affecting the ability to function at home or work.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often tend to:

Difficulty in Problem-Solving and Planning

People living with Alzheimer’s disease often experience changes in their capability to design and follow plans or work with numbers. This can include following their favourite recipe or taking care of the monthly bills. Also, they may experience difficulty concentrating and need much more time to do simple and ordinary routines.

Challenges with Familiar Tasks

Difficulty completing familiar tasks is one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s. In many cases, people may find it challenging to drive to a familiar location, compile a grocery list, or have trouble finding familiar places or objects. In the more progressed stage, people with Alzheimer’s may sometimes forget how to dress or maintain personal hygiene.

Confusion with Time or Place

Many people struggle with their sense of direction, and it can be a natural human trait. However, if a person frequently gets suddenly confused and disoriented in a familiar place (e.g. cannot remember how to return home from the office), they should consult their GP, as this can be a common sign of Alzheimer disease.

Similarly, the person may often forget dates, names, or which day of the week it is.

Challenges with Visual Images

Sudden and unexpected trouble understanding visual images may be a sign of Alzheimer’s. Common symptoms include difficulty reading, differing colours and contrasts, and spatial relationships. This can impact a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks and activities, including driving.

For example, the individual may suddenly miss a stair or fall off a curb because they miscalculate the height of the stairs. In other cases, individuals with Alzheimer’s may be unable to recognise their own reflections.

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Differentiating Normal Aging from Alzheimer's Disease

Distinguishing between normal ageing and Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging because of overlapping symptoms. While key differences may help you identify Alzheimer’s disease, any change in memory, behaviour, or cognitive skills should be discussed with a GP.

Here are the most important differences between normal ageing and Alzheimer’s disease:

Memory Changes:

Cognitive Function:

Language and Communication:

Mood and Behaviour:

However, each person’s experience is unique, and some of the symptoms mentioned above can also be related to other health conditions. An accurate diagnosis requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional, which may include cognitive assessments, brain imaging, medical history, and physical examinations.

Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease is crucial for effective management and treatment, so seeking medical attention if you suspect cognitive decline is essential.

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Importance of Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis can help people with Alzheimer’s live meaningful and productive lives years after the diagnosis. It allows the person and their family to learn more about the condition, plan for the future and find the best care possible when needed.

Living with Early-Stage Alzheimer's

Living with early-stage Alzheimer’s can be challenging for the individual, their family members and loved ones. However, with the proper support, planning, and adjustments, it is possible to maintain a good quality of life and independence for as long as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease affects everyone differently, and each person’s journey will be unique. Therefore, it is very important to adapt strategies based on individual needs and seek professional guidance as it progresses. Early-stage Alzheimer’s can be challenging, but with compassionate support and care, many people can continue to lead meaningful lives and maintain their independence for years.

Alzheimer Support with Leaf Complex Care

At Leaf Complex Care, we provide person-centred care and support in the comfort of your own home. Our highly trained support workers are experts in providing proactive and humanised care to every individual with complex care needs, and we personalise our approach to fit each individual’s preferences.

We understand the unique needs of every individual with Alzheimer’s disease and implement practices to promote independence and safety while entailing compassion, dedication and companionship.

Our services include holistic support through live-in care, prioritising independence, dignity and quality of life.

Contact us today at our offices in Bristol, SomersetSlough and the Midlands.