You've probably heard that Alzheimer's is an old persons disease. But would it surprise you to learn that up to 5 percent of people with Alzheimer's disease have early onset Alzheimer's? This is also known as younger-onset. This most often appears when a person is in their 40's or 50's.
Alzheimer's disease falls under the umbrella of Dementia. Dementia is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a person who was not impaired. Alzheimer's likewise involves memory loss. It is a progressive disease, were as dementia will gradually get worse over a several years. People with an Alzheimer's diagnosis, in early stages, will start to develop memory loss that is mild. As the disease progresses into late stage, people will lose the ability to carry on a conversation with others and will also lose the ability to respond to their environment. People and places will become unrecognizable to them, including those most close to them, their families.
Alzheimer's disease affects the brain. The brain has three parts to it. These three part are the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brain stem. Each one plays an important part on how we think, feel, control balance, and heart rate. The cerebrum fills up most of our skull. It's function involves our ability to problem solve, think and feel. The cerebrum controls movement. The cerebellum is positioned in the back of the head under the cerebrum. It's function involves the coordination and balance. And the brain stem, which also sits beneath the cerebrum, but in front of the cerebellum, connects the brain to the spinal cord. This controls functions such as digestion, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. The brain is also divided into two halves. The right half of the brain controls the body's left side, while the left side of the brain controls movement on the body's right side. An adults brain houses around 100 billion nerve cells, also known as neurons. It has branches that connect at more than 100 trillion points. This is also known as a neuron forest. When signals travel through the neuron forest it forms the memories, feelings and thoughts. Alzheimer's disease destroy the neuron cells. Alzheimer's disease also disrupts the way electrical charges travel within cells, and disrupts the activity of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are a tiny bust of chemicals that travel across the synapse. As Alzheimer's progresses, it shrinks the brain.
The sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer's has no current cure. Treatment for the symptoms, however; are available. Research continues to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Signs of Alzheimer's include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life. This is a common sign and could include forgetting information that was recently learned. Forgetting important dates and events. Asking the same question or making the same statement over and over.
- Trouble in planning or solving problems. People with Alzheimer's may have difficulty in concentrating and taking longer to do things then they did before. They may also experience difficulty in keeping track of and taking care of monthly bills.
- Trouble completing everyday tasks. This includes driving to a place of familiarity, or completing tasks done on a day to day basis.
- Getting confused with times or places. People with Alzheimer's may end up somewhere and forget where they are or how they got there.
- Difficulty understanding visual images. Some people may have difficulty with reading, judging distance, or determining color and contrast. When it comes to perception, a person with Alzheimer's may walk by a mirror and not recognize themselves in the mirror. They may think it is someone else.
- Difficulty with words when having a conversation or writing. Many people may be having a conversation, stop in the middle of it and not know how to continue it. Repeating themselves also occurs. Finding the right word is also challenging.
- Not being able to find things. A person with Alzheimer's may accuse someone else of stealing from them. They put items in places they never have before and cannot go back over their steps to trace it.
- Decreased or poor judgment. This is noticeable when dealing with money. They may give large amounts of money to telemarketers. A person with Alzheimer's also does not pay attention to their grooming or worry about keeping themselves clean.
- Withdrawn from people, work, or social activities. The person will start avoiding social activities they once enjoyed.
- Changes in personality and mood. A person with Alzheimer's can become confused, suspicious, or anxious. They may become upset or agitated when out with family, or even at home.
Named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, in 1906 Dr. Alzheimer study a woman's brain tissue who had died on unusual mental illness. Symptoms she experienced while alive were memory loss, unpredictable behavior and she experienced language difficulties. He examined her brain after she had died and found many abnormal clumps. These clumps are now called,"amyloid plaques." He also found tangled bundles of fibers. These are now called, "neurofibrillary tangles." These are the two main features of Alzheimer's disease. The third main feature is the loss of connection between nerve cells in the brain.
It is still unknown what causes the start of Alzheimer's disease, but it is known that damage to the brain can begin as early as 10 - 20 years before problems are clear. One of three genes can also be inherited from a parent.
Physical activity, nutritious diets and keeping your mind mentally stimulated can help people stay healthy. This might also cut the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.