Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating disorder of the brain and “is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States” (Alzheimer’s Association) which has three stages. The first stage referred to as mild Alzheimer’s is marked with frequent memory loss and difficulty in retrieving newly learned information, as well as, difficulty in problem solving and personality deviations. The second stage is considered moderate Alzheimer’s and its recognized symptoms are; even greater memory loss and deepening confusion (at this stage one may receive a phone call at 6:00 AM requesting they pick up their grandmother and pay for her groceries because she can’t remember where she left her billfold or how she arrived at Kroger’s), assistance with daily activities is usually required at this stage. The third and most debilitating stage; severe Alzheimer’s, exhibits a rapid decline in an individual’s physical and mental capabilities.
These victims must have assistance with daily living because they cannot tend to their own needs and are most often incoherent. Alzheimer’s disease consists of several factors that result in the death of neurons in the brain resulting in brain shrinkage. The cause of death of these neurons is still not fully understood and is currently the subject of intense scientific research. We do however know that the presence of Amyloid plaques play a significant role in disrupting normal synaptic communication between brain cells and neurofibrillary tangles contribute to the death of individual neurons by destroying the “supply line” within the cell. Tau proteins disengage (the glue that holds microtubules together) and nutrients cannot be transported throughout the cell resulting in cell death. The Mayo Clinic states that “less than 5% of the time, Alzheimer’s disease results from combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time” (Mayo).
Research has shown that gene recognition and therapy may be the most promising avenue of approach for identifying and treating prospective
Alzheimer’s victims before the disease takes hold. For now however, there are drugs that help ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Cholinesterase inhibitors have shown promising results; as they allow more of the neurotransmitter Ach to stimulate the post synaptic membrane of brain cells. Perhaps the best defense for our middle aged and older population is to have a great offense by keeping our bodies and minds active and minding our lifestyle choices. It has been observed that those who consume “more fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods, fish, and omega-3rich oils (sometimes known as the Mediterranean diet) and eat less red meat and dairy may have some protection against dementia” (WebMD).
“What is Alzheimer’s?” Alzheimer’s Association. Web. April 11.2012. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp
“Alzheimer’s Disease- Prevention Web Page”. WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise. November 9.2010. Web. April 11.2012.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Alzheimer’s disease: Treatments and drugs.” Mayo Clinic Web Page. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Jan.18. 2011. Web. April 11.2012.