Alzheimer’s disease is a complex illness that affects the brain tissue directly and undergoes gradual memory and behavioral changes which makes it difficult to diagnose. It is known to be the most common form of dementia and is irreversible. Over four million older Americans have Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to triple in the next twenty years as more people live into their eighties and nineties. (Johnson, 1989). There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s but throughout the past few years a lot of progress has been made.
Doctors need a sure way to diagnose the disease before treatment or studies can be done. The diagnosis is an autopsy of brain tissue examined under a microscope. In addition, medical history, a physical exam, and mental status tests are used for diagnosis (Posen, 1995). Often, tests are done to rule out other potential causes of the dementia. This allows the identification of other causes of thinking and behavioral changes to be made before concluding that the patient has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The tests that are requested to be done include CT and MRI scans to rule out strokes or brain tumors which could account for change in memory and behavior; thyroid and psychological tests which can also detect thinking and behavior problems (Posen, 1995).
Alzheimer’s is a result from a combination of factors that cause progressive brain deterioration that affects the memory and behavior of an individual. There are two known risk factors. The first risk factor is age. Alzheimer’s usually affects people older than 60, and rarely affects those younger than 40. The average age
of diagnosis is about 80 years old (Johnson, 1989). The incidence is about the same for all races, but women are more likely than men to develop the disease, because they live longer. The second factor is heredity. Family history plays a role in about forty percent of people with early onset of Alzheimer’s (Johnson, 1989). If your parents or a sibling developed the disease, you are more likely to, as well. But there are cases of families with several people who have had this disease and other members are not affected. These two factors are the only proven factors, but environmental research is being done to help with a possible protective effect for the disease. As of now, more research is needed to confirm any be...
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...sion of the disease. In addition, the risk factors and preventive measures are quite clear. These can help those who are unaware of what Alzheimer’s disease is or how it progresses. Future studies may prove to be beneficial in preventing the occurrence of Alzheimer’s, or at least the severity of its’ progression. Informing people of this disease, the risk factors, and preventive measures at a younger age, can only prove beneficial in the decrease or possible elimination of this physically and mentally altering disease. Living a healthy life now can only increase your chances of having a healthier life in old age.
Remember: A rolling stone gathers no moss, So exercise your brain now to reduce future loss.
Johnson, Barbara S. (1989). Psychiatric mental health. (2nd ed.). New York. J.B. Lippincott Company.
Posen, P.B (1995, Apr.). Alzheimer’s disease. [ www.document]. (Visited March 12, 2000). URL:Http://www.mayo.edu/research/alzheimers.center.
Wallace, Robert. (1998, March). Alzheimer’s disease. [www.document]. (Visited March 12, 2000). URL: Http://www.alzheimers.org/pubs/adfact.htm).
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