Alzheimer's Disease

1474 Words6 Pages
Alzheimer's Disease The disease called Alzheimer’s is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States (Weiner, 1987). It is estimated that the elderly population will double between now and 2030. During this period, the number of elderly will grow by an average of 2.8% annually (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is estimated to range from 11.3 million to 16 million (Alzheimer’s Association, 2005). These startling numbers should prompt an examination into one of the leading causes of death among this group of people. Understanding what Alzheimer’s is and the known causes of the disease are a good starting point. For those who have aging family members, knowing the risk factors and warning signs of Alzheimer’s can be beneficial to both the patient and his family. Finally, once the patient has been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s, a plan for treatment as well as providing the family and caregivers with a support system can help ease those involved through a very challenging, heartbreaking time. The Alzheimer’s Association (2005) defines the disease as “a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate, and carry out daily activities”. Contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s is not the result of normal aging, although it normally occurs more frequently in people who are over the age of 65 (Gruetzner, 1988). Studies performed on the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients show several irregularities. The most obvious abnormality is in the signal-transmitting chemicals, where a 40-90% decrease in the enzyme CAT is found. This enzyme lies in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus regions of the brain. When CAT is decreased, it causes cholinergic or acetylcholine-releasing nerve terminals to diminish. These chemicals are important for communication between nerves. Also found during these autopsies were double strands of neurofibullary tangles, senile plaque (decayed neural material), and granulovacular degeneration-all which are associated with mental impairment. Neurofibullary tangles normally do increase with age, but Alzheimer’s patients show a very high density of the tangles. The brain has also been found to contain abnormally high concentrations of aluminum (Weiner, 1987). While much is known about the end results of Alzheimer’... ... middle of paper ... ...illick, 1998). While at the present time little is known about the causes of Alzheimer’s and there is no existence of a cure, current research combined with the latest in technology is hopeful for a breakthrough. Not only are new drugs being developed, but also the possibility of vaccines are on the horizon. Keeping up with the latest clinical trials, findings and treatment options can be a challenge, but doing so can arm patients and caregivers with a powerful tool. Only through education and progress in research can this deadly disease become extinct. Works Cited: Alzheimer’s Association. (2005). What is Alzheimer’s disease? Retrieved March 30, 2005, from Gillick, Muriel R. (1998). Tangled minds: understanding Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. New York: Penguin Group. Gruetzner, Howard. (1988). Alzheimer’s: a caregiver’s guide and source book. New York: Stephen Kipper. U.S. Census Bureau. (2001). Sixty-five plus in the United States. Retrieved March 30, 2005, from Weiner, Michael A. (1987). Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. New York: Stein & Day.

More about Alzheimer's Disease

Open Document