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Alzheimer’s Disease: Signs, Symptoms, and Causes by Jacob Dawson

By at October 22, 2013 | 8:04 am | Print

According to the Alzheimer’s Association more than 5 million people in the United States are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. My own life became personally impacted by Alzheimer’s when my grandmother was diagnosed. She began forgetting names of relatives, leaving food in the stove for too long, and once driving 100 miles without realizing it and the police of the area eventually pulled her over for driving too slow. My grandfather took away her car keys after that.

The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s are usually short term memory loss such as trouble with names, appointments, spelling and writing. Short term memory loss is usually the first stage of Alzheimer’s and is usually not too severe. A person for example may just forget one of the steps necessary to complete a task such as turning on a particular street when going someplace that they are familiar with. In the second stage, known as mild dementia, learning new tasks and retaining that information becomes difficult. Getting lost and misplacing things for them becomes much more common. Their personalities begin to change and they may become more passive, less motivated, sometimes they forget to bath, and may show less interest in social interaction. During the final stages of Alzheimer’s, where the individual has severe dementia, people have trouble walking, talking in complete sentences, and may have to have every daily task done for them.

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain wasting disease first described and named after by a German physician named Alois Alzheimer. There is no cure for the disease and the cause is not well known. There is considerable brain shrinkage in those afflicted and autopsies done on brains with the disease reveal that there are abnormalities not present in individuals that are unaffected, such as plaques and tangles in the brain. These brain plaques are composed of a protein called beta amyloid and around these plaques nerve cells begin to degenerate. These tangles and plaques exist within people, even those as young as 35, but those with dementia have them prolifically throughout the brain. The theory pertaining to amyloid plaque build-up in the brain is that the plaques cut off or shrink axons and dendrites so neurons in the brain can no longer communicate with one another impairing a person cognitive association or memory. Neurons that have their axons and dendrites cut shrink and eventually die, which form the tangle like structures.

It is best to catch Alzheimer’s disease early on to see a neurologist and take preventative measures. New therapies now slow the progression of the disease and early diagnoses are crucial because the damage done by Alzheimer’s is permanent. Also, age should not always be a factor because early onset Alzheimer’s, occurring in individuals younger than 65, is a possibility. Early onset Alzheimer’s disease can occur in people in their 30’s and 40’s, although it is rare, but it is more common in people in their 50’s.

 

References

Mayoclinic.com

Alz.org

Nih.gov

 

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  1. […] globally will affect 1 in 85 people by the year 2050. So, in order to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, it is very important to know several facts such as the symptoms, its causes, the various stages of […]


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