Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of the neurological condition, dementia. It is both an incurable and progressive condition which affects as many as 850,000 people in the UK.
Alzheimer’s disease affects different people in different ways and so symptoms vary. However loss of memory is a common and early symptom, with short term memory particularly affected. Symptoms get progressively worse and can include loss of co-ordination and mobility, problems with speech and communication, mood and personality changes, anxiety, an inability to accurately assess distance, loss of concentration and, in later stages of the disease, continence issues, hallucinations and delusions.These symptoms can in turn affect a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks such as eating and walking.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown but it does tend to affect more people the older they get. Amongst the over-65s dementia affects around one in 14 people, rising to one in six for the over 80s. That rate falls to one in 20 for those aged 40 to 65 years.Rates of Alzheimer’s disease are also higher among those who have previously suffered a significant head injury and those with a family history of the condition.
There is evidence to suggest that smoking increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s along with other lifestyle factors associated with cardiovascular diseases such as lack of exercise, poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption.
With age being the biggest risk factor, by and large the answer is no. However not smoking, drinking alcohol within NHS guidelines, taking regular exercise, following a balanced and nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight will help reduce the risk of developing a cardiovascular condition which in turn may affect the likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s disease. The charity Alzheimer’s Research offers tips on reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
As it is a chronic condition Alzheimer’s disease it would not normally be covered by private health insurance. However, a policy may cover tests and CT and/or MRI scans to confirm a diagnosis. An early diagnosis is helpful in allowing the patient to understand their situation and plan for the future and in enabling health professionals to plot a treatment path. Certain initial treatments and therapies may be covered following a diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s is incurable and so treatments focus on managing the condition and alleviating symptoms. Most of these would not be covered by private medical insurance although it is possible that some initial treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling may be covered. A policy might also cover referral to a specialist for diagnostic purposes.For more information on the diagnosis, symptoms and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease visit the Alzheimer’s Society website.