Know All About Alzheimer’s Disease

Though it may sound strange, Alzheimer’s disease afflicts somewhere between 5 % to 15 % of people over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease is a slow progressive disease regarded as a variety of dementia. This disease starts out as a few forgotten things here and there and eventually over the time saps a person of all hismemories and skills. A person with Alzheimer’s disease will quite often, forget close friends and family, locations, and even the most basic tasks of life. Sadly, it is the most common of all dementias without any proven medical elixir. It is believed that Alzheimer’s disease affect as many as 4-5 million Americans.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are generally the same; a progressive forgetfulness that eventually comes to interfere with everyday life.  An Alzheimer’s patient, in their beginning stages, will commonly exhibit what appear to be normal age-related mistakes - a forgotten name, face, and location.  Quite often, they find problems spelling some words or doing math questions.  As the condition continues and worsens, the forgetfulness begins to interfere with daily, day-to-day routines and, in some cases, may drive the patient to become anxious or aggressive.   Eventually, there is almost always a need for total care as the victim not only loses memories of who s/he was, but also deteriorates until not even knowing the body’s simplest of functions.

The term ‘disease’ may not be the best to describe Alzheimer’s. To date, scientists still do not know what causes this condition.  Lumped in with a variety of various dementias, it is considered to be a brain disorder that noticeably affects a person’s ability to carry out daily routines or activities.  

Based on behavior and mannerisms, Alzheimer’s cannot be determined by EEG, brain scan or other laboratory instruments and tests.  In fact, the only way to give a definite diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is for the brain to be examined for amyloid plaques (abnormal clumps) and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain tissues.  Unfortunately, this can only be performed post-mortem (after the patient has died).  It was the presence of these very same brain abnormalities that Germany’s Dr. Alois Alzheimer noticed, upon examining the brain tissue of a woman who had passed away, following an unusual mental illness in 1906, hence the name of the condition.

When dementia occurs, nerve cells commonly die in areas of the brain, which are vital to memory and other mental abilities.  Many believe that connections between the nerve cells become disrupted; somehow, therefore resulting in lower levels of chemicals, those are needed for transmitting messages in the brain.  Disrupting these messages would impair the thinking process of the patient, and may at least partially explain the forgetfulness that is so common in Alzheimer’s patients.

While Alzheimer’s disease is known to usually set in after age 60, there have been cases of younger people suffering from the condition.  The only definite symptom is that the risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease continues to go up with age, though it is not considered to be a normal part of aging.  

Will all of the elderly fall victim to this condition?  What might be done to prevent it?  It’s believed that there are several factors brought into play, in regards to people contracting this disease.  Age is, of course, most important and the most common risk factor; the numbers of people who have this disease seem to double every year, beyond the age of 65.  

Family history is also said to play a role in whether or not a person may develop Alzheimer’s.  Those families who suffer from early-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease tend to see a likelihood of a hereditary strain, whereas those who suffer from the more common version of Alzheimer’s find that it does not seem to be a matter of genetics.  To date, the only risk factor that has been actively mentioned in relation to the late-onset variety of Alzheimer’s is a gene that is known to create the protein, ApoE (apolipoprotein), a chemical responsible for helping to carry cholesterol in the blood.  Additional studies are being carried out, checking to see the effects of education, diet, and environment and how this may also indicate an increased chance of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

There has also been increasing evidence that similar risk factors exist, between heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low levels of vitamin foliate, and Alzheimer’s disease.  For this reason, researchers continue their studies, hopeful that Alzheimer’s may prove preventable, or at least slowed, through the employment of a healthy diet and exercise.