What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

This is one of the most common causes of dementia and is characterized by memory loss and difficulties in thinking, problem solving and language. It can also be described as a neurological disorder where the brain cells die therefore leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.

The disease is irreversible therefore causes memory loss and the ability to think which finally leads one to not be able to perform even the simplest of tasks.

The majority of people usually start to see the first symptoms when they are in their mid 60s and according to experts, a large number of people are affected and the disease is known to be the sixth leading cause of death in the US.

The disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer who in 1906 was able to notice changes in the brain tissue of a lady who died of an unsual mental illness. The symptoms noted by the doctor included memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behavior.

When the woman died, the doctor examined the brain and found the presence of abnormal clumps which are called amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fiber which are called neurofibrillary or tau tangles.

The tangles and plaques found in the brain were considered to be some of the main signs of the disease and apart from that, there is the loss of connections between nerve cells in the brain. The neurons in the body are responsible for transmitting various signals from the brain to other organs and muscles.

Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Memory loss

One of the surest signs of Alzheimer’s is the occasional memory lapses. While it’s normal to lose track of certain objects such as keys or the name of something, when you have the disease, one’s memory loss seems to worsen therefore affecting the way one functions at work and even at home.

Some signs to be aware of include:

  • An individual asking one to repeat statements and questions over and over again yet they do not realize that they have asked the question before is one sure sign.
  • Ability to forget conversations, appointments, events and even not be able to remember them later
  • Starting a routine of misplacing possessions such as keys and one will often place them in illogical locations
  • Forgetting names of family members and everyday objects.

Losing sense of things and misinterpreting spatial relationships

It is common for people with the disease to start losing the sense of what day or season it is. They may also not know where they are or even their current life circumstances. The disease may disrupt the brain’s ability in interpreting what one is able to visualize therefore making it difficult to understand the surroundings. With time, the problems will eventually lead to one getting lost especially in familiar places.

Declining speaking and writing capabilities

People who have this disease may find it difficult to speak the right words, identify objects, express thoughts and even take part in conversations. As times goes by, their ability to read and write will start to decline.

Difficulty in thinking and reasoning

The disease is known to cause difficulty in concentration and thinking especially about abstract concepts such as numbers. With this disease, it has been found out that one will have difficulty in managing finances, balance checkbooks, keep track of bills and even be able to pay them on time. The difficulties may progress leading to the inability of recognizing and dealing with numbers.

Personality and behavioral changes

People who have the disease will start experiencing some changes which include depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, mood swings, distrust in others, irritability, aggressiveness, changes in sleeping habits, loss of inhibitions and delusions among others.

Difficulty in making judgements and decisions

Experts have been able to observe that people with this disease do have difficulty in making the right decisions and judgements especially when confronted with common issues. For example conditions like driving or cooking can become extremely challenging.

Struggling with common tasks

Routine activities that could be conducted with ease especially those that required planning such as cooking meals, playing a game and driving will start to become a struggle. For people who have advanced stages of the disease will start to have difficulty in accomplishing tasks.

Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimers DiseaseExperts believe that some of the causes of the disease may be as a result of a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors which affect the brain over a certain duration.

In less than 5 percent of the cases, the disease may be brought about by certain genetic changes which virtually guarantee that a person will develop the disease.

The effects of the disease on the brain have been understood as it damages and kills the brain cells. When more and more brain cells die, it leads to the shrinkage of the brain and when observed under a microscope, there are two abnormalities noted.

Plaques

These are basically described as clumps of protein known as beta-amyloid and are known to damage and destroy the brain cells. They do so by interfering with cell to cell communication. While the main cause of the disease is not known, a collection of the beta amyloid on the outside of the brain cells becomes a prime suspect of the disease.

Tangles

Since brain cells are known to be dependent on internal support and transport systems to move nutrients and other essential materials, the system requires a vital nutrient known as tau. For people with the disease, the threads of tau protein twist into abnormal tangles inside the cells therefore leading to the failure of the transport system.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

There is no sure treatment method for the disease but certain drugs and methods can help relieve and ensure longevity of the patient. Drugs used to treat cognitive symptoms include cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.

Apart from that, a patient can engage in exercises such as a 30 minute walk and proper nutrition such as high calorie healthy shakes, smoothies, water and healthy beverages.

Glutathione may not be a treatment for the disease but as an antioxidant, it can help to fight free radicals that lead to body cell damage therefore causing different diseases and ailments. Glutathione can also help detoxify the body therefore eliminating toxins that cause damage and poison the body over a certain period of time.

Alzheimer’s disease is an illness involving progressive deterioration of a person’s memory, thinking, and overall mental processes. It is the most common form of dementia and is continually affecting many people around the world. And though researches are being conducted, experts are still hoping to find a cure.

This disease causes brain cells to grow worse and ultimately die, leaving the patient to a state of mental and speech impairment and complete helplessness.

Alzheimer’s Disease and the Human Brain

The Cerebral Cortex. This part of the brain, according to psychologists, is what makes someone a human. Also called the “grey matter”, this is known to be responsible for many “higher-order” brain functions such as memory, emotion, problem solving, reason, perception, auditory sense, speech production, voluntary bodily actions and other very important uses.

AD affected brains are known to have gradual shrinkage of cerebral cortex which makes their ability to think, to understand and to speak deteriorate.

The Hippocampus. This part of the brain is associated with the formation of long-term memories. AD affected brains have significant shrinkage in this neural structure. This explains the patient’s memory loss and confusion.

The Ventricles. These are four fluid-filled sections or cavities of the brain that help cushion the cortex. AD enlarges these parts of the brain.

Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease to be genetic.

Deeper study and examination show that the brain affected by AD indicates the presence of two cellular inclusions that are believed to be the cause of this malady.

  1. Plaques. These are small abnormal patches in the brain that are caused by build-up of beta-amyloid, a kind of protein that results from tissue degeneration. They are believed to kill the brain cells.
  2. Tangles. These are caused by the disintegration of a protein called tau. Tau supports and stabilizes the microtubules in the brain.

Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

AD is a neurodegenerative disease and it gets worse over time. The following are some of the signs that a person may have it and needs to see a doctor right away:

  • Memory loss and lesser ability to remember new information. It could be characterized by the person repetitively asking the same question, forgetting important events and activities, confusion, or misplacing personal belongings.
  • Deterioration of the ability to reason, solve problems, concentrate, and understand complex information.
  • Losing track of time or place. Sometimes they forget what date it is or where they are.
  • Speech and written communication impairment. They have a hard time formulating thoughts. They sometimes stop at midpoint when they speak as if forgetting what to say next. They misuse words. Writing errors become dominant.
  • Sudden changes in behavior. Characterized by unrest, lack of motivation and interest, and indifference. The person tends to become withdrawn from social affairs or even work.
  • Visual problems. The person tends to experience trouble reading and perceiving pictures or colors.

The Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

There is no absolute cure for Alzheimer’s disease at the moment. While researches are in progress to bring forth a remedy, treatments are available only for memory, cognitive and behavioral symptoms. These treatments help patients deal with the changes caused by the disease.