The Warning Signs and Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Learn the warning signs and stages of Alzheimer's disease so you can take action to prevent it now.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.[1] Many people are unaware that there are different stages of Alzheimer’s disease; knowing these stages can help you take the appropriate steps to prevent memory loss before it’s too late.

The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease typically develops slowly and gradually gets worse over time, usually a period of several years. There are basically five main Alzheimer’s stages.

Stage 1: No impairment.  A person does not show any dementia symptoms. It is important to note that this subclinical stage of the illness  is believed to span several decades in a patient who ultimately develops Alzheimer’s. That’s important because it means we need to begin working on prevention early in the process, before any symptoms manifest.

Stage 2: Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or mild cognitive decline. During this stage, a person feels as if he or she is having memory lapses such as forgetting familiar words. While everyone experiences some forgetfulness from time to time, mild cognitive impairment is more pronounced than normal memory loss and a person will experience problems with mental function more regularly. MCI is considered as a transition phase between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease. MCI confers an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s but not an absolute sentence. In fact, in many cases with proper lifestyle and nutritional interventions in this stage, cognition can be restored back to normal.

Stage 3: Mild Alzheimer’s. More pronounced memory loss occurs, particularly with words and names. For example, a person will forget the names of people or confuse friends and family for one another. Additionally, the person starts misplacing items, particularly items of value. Co-workers begin to notice the memory impairments as the person has increasing difficulty performing normal work tasks or organizing; and they begin to forget current events such as meetings. During this stage, friends and family also begin to notice the increasing amount of memory loss. As such, the person may start to become socially isolated and withdrawn.

Stage 4: Moderate Alzheimer’s. The person with moderate Alzheimer’s is not able to come up with the names of close family members and friends and begins to forget significant details about their family and/or own personal history. He has difficulty recalling his home address or phone number. He is often confused about what day of the week it is.  Activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, combing hair) become increasingly difficult. In some cases, the person begins to experience hallucinations and paranoia. They become easily frustrated due to the memory loss and may even be violent.

Stage 5: Severe Alzheimer’s. This stage is the one most are familiar with when they hear the words “Alzheimer’s disease.” At this point, the person can no longer take care of him- or herself and cannot talk coherently, if at all. Muscles become rigid and the person may have difficulty walking or controlling movements. Eventually, he or she loses the ability to swallow and/or bladder and bowel control.

Steps to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

The best time to protect your memory is during the first two Alzheimer’s stages. If you notice that you are becoming more forgetful or if you have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease, here’s what you can do:

  • Become active in social groups, fundraisers, charity events, church activities, etc.
  • Play card and board games with friends.
  • Perform crosswords and other word puzzles to help stimulate your brain.
  • Exercise 20 to 30 minutes per day three to five times per week. Take a walk around your neighborhood with a friend.
  • Take a daily multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement and be sure it includes a combination of B vitamins (folic acid, B6, and B12).  Follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions.
  • Take 6 to 12 grams of fish oil daily with the omega 3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), in a ratio of 2:1.
  • Eat a diet rich in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These foods contain powerful antioxidants thought to combat the effects of aging.[2]
  • One of the most impressive of the natural compounds used in combating Alzheimer’s is curcumin, the active ingredient of the bright orange Indian spice turmeric. Research has shown that it not only helps to reduce the formation of the dreadful amyloid plaque deposits, which appear to be one of the underlying causes of the disease, but it can also dissolve the plaque once it has formed.[3,4] Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the human body so use the phytosome form of the supplement taking 500-1000 mg per day.

Read more here:

[1] Alzheimer’s Association 2012.
[2] Bowman GL, et al “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging” Neurology 2012; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182436598.
[3] Caesar I, et al “Curcumin Promotes A-beta Fibrillation and Reduces Neurotoxicity in Transgenic Drosophila”. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31424.
[4] Yang, F., et. al., “Curcumin Inhibits Formation of Amyloid β Oligomers and Fibrils, Binds Plaques, and Reduces Amyloid in Vivo. J Biol Chem 2005; 280: 5892-5901
This post originally appeared in 2012 and has been updated.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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