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Basics of Alzheimer’s Disease by James Koester

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Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a tragic illness that affects over five million elderly denizens of the United States. The causes of Alzheimer’s Disease are uncertain but there is a triad of factors that influence the development of Alzheimer’s: genetics, environment, and lifestyle choice. AD is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks the neurons, which are brain cells. The protein beta-Amyloid forms plaque that destroys neurons. Patients with AD have inflamed glial cells, which is the connective tissue of the nervous system. Alzheimer’s Disease ferociously disrupts the part of the brain that controls memory, language, reasoning, and social behavior. Alzheimer’s Disease is the leading cause of dementia, which is chronic forgetfulness and personality changes. The future of those with AD is grim, the disease is irreversible and progressive. The simplest tasks become impossible or become much more difficult than they should be.

Changes in the brain from AD occur as much as a decade before the first symptom is shown. Symptoms for Alzheimer’s Disease include: becoming forgetful, having a hard time handling money, asking questions multiple times, mood swings, and personality changes. AD is a devastating disease that shrinks the brain, specifically the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that in involved in memory. While most people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed after the age of 65, there is early onset Alzheimer’s Disease which is when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before the age of 65. The most common age for early onset Alzheimer’s Disease is late 40s to late 50s.

There is no cure for AD, but there is various medication on the market that impedes the breakdown of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine a neurotransmitter that triggers the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and the central nervous system (CNS). The drugs Razadyne, Exelon, and Aricept are what is prescribed to those who are recently diagnosed. However, these drugs only ward off the inevitable for so long before the brain stops creating acetylcholine due to Alzheimer’s. The disease often goes undetected for a substantial amount of time before drugs are taken. The three stages of Alzheimer’s are: Preclinical Alzheimer’s, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and Mild Dementia due to Alzheimer’s. In the preclinical stage there is no signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, this stage may last for years before diagnosis. However, there is new imaging technology available that detect the amount of beta-Amyloid. In the MCI stage of Alzheimer’s doesn’t affect relationships. Most often, the drugs are given in the third stage of Alzheimer’s. The drugs may lose their effectiveness because as Alzheimer’s worsens, the brain creates less acetylcholine and the drugs don’t have any effect.

It is important to mention, that dementia is an extreme form of forgetfulness, and it is not normal. While aging and memory have been negatively correlated it does not mean that dementia or Alzheimer’s is a part of everyday life. Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects at least five million elderly Americans. In 2013, $203 billion was spent on Alzheimer’s Disease, that figure is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050.






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