Alzheimer’s Disease is the fastest growing form of dementia that is unable to be reversed or cured. There are several factors that contribute to this ever-growing disease that can lower the risk of contracting it if one is to be cautious and aware of them. Research has discovered processes that occur in the brain that leads to the onset of this disease that may able to be hindered if caught at an early stage. Though there is not a cure or way to stop the disease from progressing there are several medications available to help treat symptoms and slow down the process of progression. Through many studies, ways of prevention have been discovered that if done early on in life can decrease risk of contracting the disease. But for the family members those who do suffer from Alzheimer’s there are also options on how to properly care for their loved ones whether in their own home or in a facility.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Risk factors, Dementia, Treatment
Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor, discovered this disease in 1907 at the University of Munich. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the fourth leading cause of death in adults, following heart disease, cancer, and strokes. AD is the most common form of dementia, a progressive declining disease of the brain. The number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. is now estimated at 5.3 million, and this figure will likely skyrocket to about 16 million people by 2050 (de la Torre, 2010, pg.861). Due to genetic factors, up to ten percent of the population can expect to develop Alzheimer’s or another form of senile dementia. Risk increases greatly with age, so people over 85 have a 50% chance of developing this disease. People usually are stricken with this disease around the age of seventies or eighties but some receive it earlier in their fifties and sixties. According to research some causes and contributing factors of this disease include: genetics, infections, neurochemical anomalies, and stress. Head injuries, aluminum exposure, and immunological disorders are also linked with certain patients who suffer from this disease (Keck, 1996, pg.22-23).
Alzheimer’s is characterized by a subtle onset followed by a slow decline in memory, and other cognitive functions such as language, sense of time, judgment, reasoning, or executive function, which includes the ability to plan, organize, and start or stay on task (Adler, Doraiswamy, Gwyther, 2008, p.6). A definite diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can only be made through a brain tissue autopsy. As Alzheimer’s begins to take affect on the brain it involves the buildup of plaques and tangles. Plaques are clumps of protein called beta-amyloid, which begins accumulating in the front of the brain and gradually spreads to other parts. Tangles are twisted knots of another protein called tau that arise from inside cells. Tangles begin to build up near the brains memory center, the hippocampus, and spread throughout the brain. Studies have also shown that it may even have a long incubation period in the brain before onset actually occurs (Adler et al. 2008, p.8). Early on in Alzheimer’s the short-term memory function of the brain is affected first. The short-term memory center includes episodic memory: which holds daily events, verbal, and visual memory; causing patients to repeat questions and stories. Verbal memory stores words you just heard or the names of people you met, or information heard on the radio or television. Visual memory allows us to remember people’s faces and places and what things look like. Next to fail is our Semantic memory, which is where we hold the meanings and concepts of certain specific experiences such as how to do our job, or perform out favorite hobbies. The next affected by Alzheimer’s is procedural memory, which is tucked away in our sub-conscience and is responsible for things we learn do almost...