A Dreaded Disease That Eventually Leads To Death
Alzheimer's disease (aka: Alzheimer disease) is the most common form of dementia. So far, there is no known cure for this dreaded disease which eventually leads to death. It was first described by German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915) and was named after him.
He was born in Marktbreit, Bavaria and he earned his medical degree in 1887 at the age of 23. The following year he joined the staff at the city mental asylum in Frankfurt. It was there where he continued his education in psychiatry, and devoted himself to the study of neuropathology.
In the following years he discovered that a condition which had previously been attributed to senility was actually something different. Alzheimer presented a preliminary report of his findings in 1906 and provided further details in the following year. In 1910 four more cases emphasized the difference between Alzheimer's new found condition and senility. They referred to the condition as pre-senile dementia. It was later decided that the condition should be called Alzheimer's Disease.
To this day, Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery
Since the days of Dr Alzheimer there was very little follow up research done until the 1960s. This is primarily because only a small number of people were living long enough to reach the age when the disease normally materializes. Even to this day medical researchers say they still do not know quite what to make of the plaques and tangles that Alois Alzheimer first spotted in the brain of that dementia patient who died in 1906.
Today we have a few drugs that treat some of the symptoms but nothing that seems to be effective in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's. The disease strikes one in eight older Americans and it is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It has been estimated that the number of people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia will rise from 35.6 million in 2010 to 65.7 million by 2030 and as many as 115.4 million by 2050.
Care for Alzheimer's vitims has improved since the days of President Ronald Reagan which releived some of the stigma, but the primary causes behind the illness remain a mystery. On top of everything else, researchers are at a loss as to what to do because they are unable to replicate the disease in laboratory animals.
Another difficult problem rests in the apparent fact that the disease appears to be present in a patient's brain for as many as 15 years prior to showing any symtoms. Alzheimer's will usually become noticeable at or around the age of 70, so the apparent slow progression becomes yet another barrier to a solution. By the time a patient becomes available for clinical studies, doctors are dealing with a disease that has already been progressing for over a decade.
Steps to lessen your risk of Alzheimer's
Obviously there is nothing you can do about age or genetics in your quest to avoid Alzheimer's, but here are a few things you can do to perhaps lessen your risk of the disease.
Try to avoid heart disease - Medical research has shown that there are links between heart and brain health. Therefore anything that increases your risk for heart disease may also make you more susceptible to Alzheimer's. Discuss with your doctor the best steps to take to avoid heart disease and if you already have heart disease, follow your treatment rigorously.
Avoid contracting type 2 diabetes - There is a possible link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's. Again, meet with your doctor and learn the best ways to prevent diabetes with your diet and exercise. And if you already have diabetes, always follow a stringent plan to maintain control of your blood sugar.
Keep your brain active - According to current research, keeping your brain active might be a good way to avoid, or at least delay the onset of Alzheimer's. Participating in activities such as bingo night at your local church or club can be helpful. Puzzles, and reading publications such as magazines or newspapers help keep your brain active. Experts say that staying mentally active is extremely important.
And last but not least, if you think you are beginning to have signs of dementia, check with your doctor because early diagnosis and treatment can be very important in dealing with the disease.