About Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is the gradual loss of cognitive function, which includes thinking, remembering, and reasoning. Those suffering from dementia often find it difficult to perform tasks they previously found simple. There are many forms of dementia, but of these, the most common is Alzheimer’s Disease. While the illness is not fully understood, common consensus attributes it to the gradual accumulation of Amyloid, a normally produced protein, within the brain. Neurons begin to lose efficiency and, as time passes, they lose the ability to communicate with each other. Such a process occurs years before the first Alzheimer’s symptoms appear. These changes eventually spread to the hippocampus, responsible for forming new memories, and other brain tissues. In the late stages of the diseases, widespread neuron death is present and significant brain tissue has shrunken in size.

Alzheimer’s Disease Progression

In the early stages of the disease, individuals find it difficult to properly perform daily tasks. They often find themselves lost, have issues handling money, and repeat questions. Slight changes in behavior and attitude may occur. Alzheimer’s patients are usually diagnosed during this time.

As the disease continues to progress, patients have greater memory difficulties and are easily confused. They may be unable to learn new things or perform daily tasks, such as properly dress and maintaining proper hygiene. Problems with bladder and bowel control may begin. Alzheimer’s patients may also begin to behave erratically towards family and others around them. Reasoning is also severely affected.

In the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, there is widespread brain damage and individuals become completely dependent on others. Patients are often bedridden as their bodies are negatively affected. They have lost control of bladder and bowel movements and have trouble swallowing properly. They will likely lose interest in food, and it is therefore imperative to promote stable eating habits. Massive memory loss will be present and they are unlikely to recognize faces, even those of family members.

Causes of the Disease

Researchers do not yet fully understand Alzheimer’s Disease and its causes, yet they have made great strides. They believe it is a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Genetics is believed to play a more prominent role in early-onset Alzheimer’s. Here, Alzheimer’s usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 60, as opposed to the majority of cases which occur after 60 and is caused by changes in one of three genes inherited from a parent.

In late-onset Alzheimer’s, researchers have found a link to the apoliprotein E (APOE) gene, which has several forms, one of which is believed to increase the risk of developing the disease. The presence of the gene, however, does not mean a person is certain to suffer from Alzheimer’s. Research into Alzheimer’s does not end here. Scientists believe there are more genes at work and are constantly working to identify them.

Researchers are also exploring links between the disease and lifestyle factors. There are slight associations between cognitive decline and the presence of other health issues that include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Hispanics as a population tend to be at greater risk for these conditions and if a clear link can be found between these factors and the disease, then it could help explain the group’s higher probability of developing the disease.

Additionally, several studies suggest a nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating endeavors can help everybody stay mentally healthy as they age. More specific studies are being performed to confirm such statements.