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Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

There are over 5 million American’s that have Alzheimer’s Disease. A number that is expected  to rise to 14 million by 2050. So What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and congnitive functioning. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and it eventually results in death. Alzheimer’s is fairly new to medical literature. The first case was report by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist, in 1901.

Dr Alzheimer noted changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had this disease. He found both amyloid plaques, or irregular clumps, and neurofibrillary tangles, or bunched up fibers in his patient’s brain.

Today doctors agree that both of these physical changes are typical of Alzheimer’s. Doctors also learned that patients’ nerve cells die and nerve connections are disrupted, leading to decrease memory and thinking. Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia. A group of disorders in which a lost of brain cells leads to diminished mental function. Symptoms vary by individual and the progression of the disease. But most people with Alzheimer’s experience degenerative memory loss and difficulty performing basic tasks.

Many people with the disease of experience behavioral changes, rapid mood swings, and loss of initiative. These symptoms, that are characteristic of the disease can strike anyone. 1984, President Ronald Regan join the ranks of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Regan died of Alzheimer’s Disease at 93 years of age.

Scientists have not yet found the reasons why brain cells fail and amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles develop. But, there are several factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing this disease. The greatest risk factor is age. Most people with the disease are 65 or older. For people over 85 the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease rises to almost 50%.

Another risk factor is a patient’s family history. Those that have a grandparent, parent, or sibling with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the condition themselves. Similarly scientist know that genes play a role in the disease. A strong link between a head injury and Alzheimer’s Disease has also been established.

Brain health is connected to heart health. So high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and stroke can all increase the chances of developing this form of dementia.

Because Alzheimer’s can strike anyone, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors, and to seek immediate treatment if you are experiencing abnormal memory lost or sudden personality changes.