Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive illness that destroys vital brain cells. Causes are not yet fully understood and there is no cure at the present time. It is not part of the normal aging process. Alzheimer's disease is fatal.

Evolution varies from one person to the next and lasts on average 8 to 10 years. Alzheimer's disease can be present 10 years before the first symptoms appear.

There are two types of AD: sporadic 99 % of cases and genetic which represents 1% of cases and generally affects younger people.

Symptoms of AD

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily activities
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Language difficulties
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, reasoning
  • Difficulty with abstract notions
  • Loosing things and misplacing them in illogical locations
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Loss of interest, depression, denial
Short-term memory loss becomes more apparent where cognitive functions are affected (difficulty counting, speaking, planning, etc.)


It is important to see a doctor to determine the cause of memory loss or other difficulties. Some dementia-like symptoms can be reversed if they are caused by treatable conditions, such as depression, drug interaction, thyroid problems, excess use of alcohol or certain vitamin deficiencies.

Knowing the cause of the symptoms enables treatment and planning for the future. It helps prepare everyone concerned for the road ahead.

The diagnosis is established through a process of elimination.

First the doctor will perform a physical check-up to assess the symptoms; other evaluations may also take place:
  • Medical history
  • Interviews with family and friends
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Mental status tests
  • Laboratory tests
  • Brain imaging tests
Evolution of Alzheimer's disease

The Reisberg scale is used to measure the progression of AD.

In stages 1 & 2, there are no symptoms or impairment.
Stages 3 & 4 are the mild stages; the person can perform many tasks without help, can live alone, and may be able to drive a car (spans over 2 to 3 years)
Stage 5: moderate stage; the person needs to be accompanied through daily activities (could last 4 to 5 years)
Stage 6: advanced stage; the person needs extensive help with daily activities
Stage 7: final stage (could last 2 to 3 years)

Risk factors in AD
  • Age
  • Genetics (1% of cases – 50% probability)
  • Severe brain injuries
  • Hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol - when not treated
  • Chronic depression
Probability increases when combination of these risks factors.

Prevention and protection factors
  • Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants and include Omega 3's.
  • Drink 1 glass of red wine per day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Treat depression
  • Protect your head
  • Keep an active social life (volunteering)
  • Physical exercise (at least 30 minutes of walking 3 times a week)
  • Brain exercise (memorize your grocery list, change your routine by doing things differently)
Studies show that benefits on the brain are much more important when combining physical and mental exercises.