Alzheimer’s: Physical Health Effects
Alzheimer’s disease can impact lives in many ways. When many of us think of Alzheimer’s or dementia, we think of how it affects memory. Although it’s important to consider memory support when living with Alzheimer’s, it’s not the only concern.
In addition to the emotional and mental effects, Alzheimer’s disease can challenge physical health. Although many services focus on psychological and physical wellbeing, caregivers also need to consider immune health.
Wellness can be more complicated for immunocompromised seniors.
What Does Immunocompromised Mean?
Being immunocompromised, or having an immune deficiency, means your immune system isn’t working as it should. Like a trampoline with a loose spring or a clock with a jammed gear, immune deficiency makes it difficult for your immune system to operate normally.
The immune system is one of the most complex body systems, made of multiple organs, tissues, and cells. It naturally changes over time and can experience periods of weakness. A temporarily weakened immune system isn’t the same as an immune deficiency.
For example, after fighting off the flu, the virus may have weakened your immune system. However, unless you suffer from immunodeficiency, your immune system will repair itself and return to normal.
An immunocompromised person still has a functioning immune system, but it may not function well. As a result, it’s easier to get sick and harder to get better. Immune deficiencies can cause repeated illnesses or severe infections. It also increases the chance of more severe symptoms.
Immunocompromised people also tend to experience:
- Blood disorders
- Digestive issues
- Skin infections
An immunocompromised person may have primary or secondary immune deficiency.
Primary immunodeficiency (PI) means you’re both with it. It can be genetic, or it may occur spontaneously. It isn’t caused by infection or disease.
Typically, primary immunodeficiency is detected soon after birth. However, some people with a mild form may experience fewer symptoms or may not be diagnosed until adulthood.
Secondary immunodeficiency is caused by infection, disease, or injury. People can develop secondary immunodeficiency at any age.
Some of the more common causes of secondary immunodeficiency are:
- Radiation or chemotherapy
- Viruses (including HIV)
- Leukemia (hypogammaglobulinemia)
- Immunosuppressant medication
- Chronic disease
- Severe burns
Alzheimer’s & Immune Risks
Not all people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are immunocompromised. However, they are at a higher risk of having or developing immune deficiencies.
As we age, our bodies create fewer immune cells to help us recognize and fight infections or diseases. As a result, seniors experience reduced production of immune cells, increasing the risk of getting sick.
Although Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process, aging is the most significant risk factor for developing the condition. Every 5 years after age 65, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s doubles.
Aging adults have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s alongside a weakened immune system.
Diabetes can have many effects on body health, including the immune system. When diabetes damages cells due to an inflammatory response, it can cause hyperglycemia. The condition then contributes to immune system dysfunction, making it challenging to stop invading pathogens.
People with diabetes are at a greater risk of cognitive decline:
- People with type 1 diabetes are 93% more likely to develop dementia.
- People with higher blood sugar levels (type 2 diabetes) have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Immunosuppressant drugs are medications that suppress or reduce immune system capabilities. Immunosuppressants can be prescribed to treat various health conditions, from autoimmune diseases to organ transplants to allergies.
Allergies occur when your body’s immune system responds to substances like dogs, dust, or dandelions. As a result, some medications alleviate allergy symptoms by targeting your immune system. The medication suppresses inflammation by suppressing your immune response.
Medications or drugs causing immunosuppression include:
Good hygiene is the first defense against infections and negative health effects. On the opposite end, bad hygiene leads to an increased rate of infections and diseases. When the immune system constantly fights illness, it can weaken, leaving seniors vulnerable to more severe symptoms.
People with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often have difficulty completing personal hygiene routines. If your loved one forgets daily hygiene or personal grooming, they may need assistance from a caregiver.
Healthy Living with Fox Trail
Making health decisions can be challenging, even more so for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors with memory problems need caregivers and community support to protect their health.
At Fox Trail, we’re committed to creating a safe space where our residents feel comfortable and safe. Part of ensuring their safety is prioritizing their health, and we’re here to provide individual experiences for the best care. Contact us to learn about our services, including memory support. Or schedule a visit to learn more about our welcoming community.