Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer’s disease or AD is an incurable disorder of the brain that results in loss of normal brain structure and function. In an AD brain, normal brain tissue is slowly replaced by structures called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The plaques represent a naturally occurring sticky protein called beta amyloid and in an Alzheimer’s brain, sufferer’s tend to accumulate too much of this protein. Neurofibrillary tangles represent collapsed tau proteins which, in a normal brain along with microtubules, form a skeleton that maintains the shape of the nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, the tau proteins break loose from their normal location and form tangles. Without the support of these molecules, nerve cells collapse and die. As normal brain structure is lost with progression of the disease, brain function also degenerates. Patients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease display a gradual mental decline. Initially, and most apparently, there is a loss of short-term memory. Eventually, as a patient progresses to later stages of the disease, the brain becomes so damaged that patients can no longer communicate or recognize immediate family or even themselves. They have difficulty walking and standing and frequently fall. In the final stages, they lose bladder and bowel control and have difficulty with swallowing, frequently leaving them malnourished and dehydrated. Eventually, they are forced to remain bedridden and, without the help of life-prolonging measures provided in a hospital, die. However, this level of deterioration is severe and may take as long as twenty years. Because of the disease’s slow progress and its usual later start in a person’s life, a victim of AD will usually die first of natural causes. Under the objectives ...

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...hed and streamlined to allow for earlier diagnosis. In the case of tertiary prevention, the pharmaceutical companies have a huge financial incentive to create a cure for Alzheimer’s but that is not enough. More government funded research should be dedicated towards finding methods to delay or cure Alzheimer’s disease. The baby boomer generation has already entered their 60’s. As people live longer, as a result of new treatments for common killers such as heart disease and cancer, the chances that they will succumb to Alzheimer’s increases. Failing to find preventative or curative measures will be costly. On a personal level, Alzheimer’s disease slowly attacks cognitive function-the higher thought processes; individuals degenerate into infantile dependents. The cost of caring for increasing numbers of such dependents will be a burden on both family and society.
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