Alzheimers affects that part of brain that controls thought, memory, and language. It is also one of the most common forms of dementia, which is fairly general term for memory loss and intellectual abilities that severely interferes with normal, daily activities. The onset of Alzheimers slowly progresses, getting worse over time. Even though Alzheimers research has increased over the last decade or so, it is still fatal with no foreseeable cure.
What starts out as slowed thinking and occasional memory lapses, increases to serious memory loss and other changes in the way a person thinks or remembers, that seems abnormal to “normal” signs of aging. A couple of the abnormal occurrences within the brain that is attributed to Alzheimers is the buildup of plaque and tangles, which have been labeled as major contributors to the killing and damaging of nerve cells.
Plaque buildup occurs between the cells, depositing protein which is called beta-amyloid. The Tangles is another type of protein deposit, called tau that forms inside of the dying nerve cells. While this will usually occur in most people’s brains as they age, those with Alzheimers will have a lot more plaque and tangle buildup. When there is a lot of buildup, the plaque and tangle form a pattern that such as memory and learning, then moves to other regions within the brain. Unfortunately, it is not exactly known how these two abnormal occurrences contribute to Alzheimers other than they somehow block the communication occurring in the nerve cells, which causes a disruption to the activities that are required to keep the cells alive.
Unfortunately it takes longer to diagnose the disease as the damage within the brain starts much sooner than when the symptoms appear. By the time symptoms are visible nerve cells have already been damaged and killed. There are seven stages of the disease, starting with no impairment, to the last stage where a very severe decline in the person’s memory and health has occurred, including the inability to bathe, eat, walk, or even go to the bathroom without assistance.
Though there are no particular medical examinations to conclude that a person has the disease. However, various tests, which include physical and mental exams, along with talking with family and friends can help in diagnosing Alzheimers. Some of the risk factors include age, usually those over 65, family history—someone in the family has developed the disease somewhere along the way, and genetics—this may come in two different forms, such as a person carrying the gene called apolipoprotein E-e4 or the deterministic genes, which account for far less of the cases reported.
Other risk factors include a serious head injury that would have occurred sometime during a person’s life, someone who suffers from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol, and lack of taking care of oneself through the aging process, such as tobacco or excess alcohol consumption.
There are some medications available to help delay or slow down the process of brain cell degeneration but they are not known to curb or stop the process altogether. However, trying the different types of treatments available will help to improve the quality of life for those suffering from Alzheimers.