Alzheimer's Disease: The Horror of Losing Your Own Memories

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Memories are something humans cherish the most. It is how to process the good and bad of life. It is something that can not be stolen from us. So what happens when those memories are lost? Worse than that, imagine not remembering the simplest things like or spoon and losing basic language skills. Alzheimer’s disease is just that. It is a case of a human detoritating within their self.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. Which is due to the degeneration of the brain. It is the sixth leading cause of death in America and affects nearly 5.3 million people. Most of those 5.3 million people are 65 years of age or younger. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's but there have been a few promising studies being done today. Alois Alzheimer, a German neurologist was the one who discovered Alzheimer's in 1906. It was first discovered in a woman who was brought in by her family because they noticed a change in her memory and personality. He then began to study her until her death a few years later. During the rest of her life, he noted problems with her memory, speech and her behavior. After her death. Dr. Alzheimer did an autopsy on her brain. He found senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which are now known as causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

Normal human aging and dementia are confused with Alzheimer’s disease. Normal aging can be seen as a slight hair loss, change in hair color, slight memory loss and decrease of vision and hearing. There are many different types of dementia that comes with different symptoms. But Alzheimer’s disease is loss of normal function, severe speech impairment, and memory. There are three stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Since there is no cure there are ways to notice early signs to slow the process down. First, the early stage which is typically 2-4 years. This is when friends and family first notice a change. Symptoms may include difficulty to retain and learn new information. They can have difficulty expressing themselves and have trouble with their daily tasks. This is when patients usually withdraw themselves from social events. The second stage is called moderate. This is the longest stage, which typically lasts 2-10 years. This is when the people start to confuse their family members and surroundings, while losing their sense of time. This is when they lose personal memories about themselves as well. At this time there are more noticeable behavioral changes such as becoming more irritable and mean at times. The third stage is the most severe and is the final stage of this disease. This is when they are unable to carry on a conversation and can only say short phrases. At this time patients need 24/7 care to do basic tasks such as bathing and cooking. Their bodies then fail to function normally and their muscles start to swell and have trouble sitting or walking without help.

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As discovered by Dr. Alzheimer, the only way to truly diagnose Alzheimer's is by autopsy. However, how doctors today diagnose it through physical examinations and behavioral tests. They will start with patient history and watch them over time to see what symptoms present themselves and how they are progressing. Brain scans are also an important factor. Doctors use MRI’s and CT scans to see how the brain’s size and shape changes. Doctors may also use an Alzheimer’s disease assessment scale. This evaluates a patient's memory, language and reasoning on a 0 to 70 scale. In addition to these tests, a doctor can do a neurological exam to see the function of the brain and nervous system. This test reflects a person’s muscle strength, balance, and eye function. Alzheimer's has two major changes in the brain, neurofibrillary tangles, and senile plaques. As the numbers of plaques and tangles increase a person gradually loses their communication skills and memory, which then blocks them from gaining new memories. The number of deaths from Alzheimer’s has increased by the thousands since 1991. The effects of Alzheimer's are the main reason for death not just the changes in the brain. Leading causes are trouble swallowing, malnutrition and increased risk of illnesses.

When trying to treat Alzheimer's, the symptoms are put into two groups, cognitive, behavioral and psychiatric. How doctors treat cognitive is by two different types of medicine that alter chemicals in the brain. The first medicine is a cholinesterase inhibitor this helps to break down acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is important in the brain because it is responsible for learning and memory. The second would be Memantine. Meantime regulates glutamate in the brain. Glutamate also involved with learning and memory. For behavioral and psychiatric symptoms are sleeplessness, irritation, anxiety, and hallucinations. There are few other medications approved by the FDA for this, such as Donepezil, rivastigmine and Namzaric. These work by regulating neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit messages between neurons.

There are many non-drug ways to calm these symptoms, such as changing the environment to make sure the patients have no obstacles. Another way would be investigating the medicine they are taking to make sure they are not changing the patient's mental state. If these do not work the next step would be to involve medication. For example, antidepressants can be taken to ease the person or giving them antipsychotics for their hallucinations and anxiety.

There are a few connections between Alzheimers and education as well as coexisting health problems. First, people with lower education have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This is because patients with higher education also have higher synaptic connections to the brain. So having more synaptic connections you can make up the ones you are losing with Alzheimer’s. A nutritious diet, physical activity and social engagement have been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Also having type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol increases this risk. This is because damaged blood vessels result in less blood flow to the brain and insulin deficiency can cause higher levels of sugar into the brain. Another study shows that poor sleep during the ages of 50-70’s changes the brain and make you more acceptable to get alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease that affects more than half of the human population who can not remember themselves or their life they have built. Humans rely on their memories to cherish their and to keep them going. But for some their life have been taken away from them and what they have left is the little memories Alzheimer’s has not taken from them.

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