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Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s Disease’

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. By Our Student Pharmacist, Laken Barnette.

Alzheimer’s_Hero

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is a form of dementia, which is a general term for a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia as it accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. Experts suggest that more than 5.8 million Americans have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and ranks as the third leading cause of death for older people. For most patients with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s but for some, symptoms can show up earlier in life.

What causes Alzheimer’s?

Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes Alzheimer’s Disease in most people. A genetic mutation can be the cause in people with early-onset Alzheimer’s. But those who have late-onset, it could be a mix of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. It is believed that certain vascular and metabolic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity can put people at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. It is also likely that changes in the brain may begin a decade or more before symptoms appear.

So, what does Alzheimer’s disease do the brain?

Abnormal protein deposits begin to form amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain. These plaques and tangles prevent once-healthy neurons from connecting with other neurons, which causes them to die. It is thought that many other complex brain changes play a role as well. Initially, the damage occurs in the memory centers of the brain. As more neurons die overtime, additional parts of the brain become more affected and begin to shrink.

Healthy Brain vs Severe Alzheimers

What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Usually, the first clinical sign of Alzheimer’s Disease is memory loss. Unfortunately, this is not a diagnosing symptom. Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). While older people with MCI are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, not all do, and some can even go back to normal cognition. Researchers are currently studying certain biomarkers to detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and people who are at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

What are the stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Early-stage Alzheimer’s

During early-stage Alzheimer’s, the patient may function independently. While this patient can still do normal daily activities, they might feel that they are having memory lapses. Symptoms might not be incredibly apparent at this stage, but family members and close friends might notice these changes.

Middle-stage Alzheimer’s

Middle-stage Alzheimer’s is usually the longest stage and can last for years. Symptoms become more pronounced. The patient may have negative changes in behavior and act in unexpected ways. Also, they may have trouble remembering personal history, experience changes in sleep patterns, and have an increased tendency to wander and become lost. In this stage, the patient can still participate in normal daily activities with assistance.

Late-stage Alzheimer’s

In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, dementia symptoms become severe. Patients eventually lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on conversations, and control their movements. In the late-stage, patients need extensive care and supportive services.

Alzheimers-Infographic

While currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of the disease as there is treatment to slow the progression. An early diagnosis can allow patients to begin treatment early to preserve daily functioning for longer and open them up to opportunities to participate in clinical trials for new treatments for Alzheimer’s.

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. (2019, May 22). National Institute on Aging.

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet#treating

Stages of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved May 17, 2021, from

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/stages

What is Alzheimer’s Disease? | CDC. (2020, October 26). Centers of Disease Control and

Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm

 

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. By Our June Student Pharmacist, Mark Buenger.

Alzheimers Blog Picture 1

In the United States alone, 5.3 million people in 2015 are estimated to be living with a disease that cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured. This disease is known as Alzheimer’s disease and the number of people living with the disease is expected to continue to grow.

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease and was the 6th leading cause of death in Ohio in 2012.

So what exactly is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other mental functions. Throughout the course of the disease, the brain cells degenerate and die resulting in significant shrinkage of the brain. This process results in a persistent decline in mental function and memory which, as you can imagine, can greatly impact a patient’s daily life.

You may be wondering what puts a person at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. While there are a number of factors that contribute, the biggest risk factor appears to be age. Approximately 5.1 million people in 2015 who are living with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.

Other risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • Sex (Women > Men)
  • Previous head trauma
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Poor lifestyle and heart health

The first thing you may notice is a rise in forgetfulness or memory loss. People normally experience some forgetfulness, but when daily life is affected, particularly recent memories, you should become concerned. Memory loss in Alzheimer’s may appear in a few ways:

  • Repeating statements and questions over and over and not realizing that they have already said that before.
  • Forgetting conversations, appointments, or events.
  • Routinely misplacing possessions.
  • Eventually forgetting the names of family members and everyday objects.

Other symptoms that may be present include:

  • Disorientation – Losing track of the date, season, or where the person is.
  • Speaking and writing – Trouble finding words.
  • Thinking and reasoning – Difficulty concentrating.
  • Making judgments and decisions – Responding to everyday problems becomes challenging.
  • Planning and performing familiar tasks – Playing a favorite game becomes a struggle.
  • Changes in personality and behavior – Wandering, delusions.

Alzheimers Blog Picture 2

Currently, researchers have not found a proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence suggests that similar factors that increase your risk for heart disease can also increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Believe it or not, there are only a handful of medications designed to combat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. These medications work by affecting cell-to-cell communications in the brain. However, these medications do not cure the disease and only help with memory symptoms for a limited amount of time.

The impact of Alzheimer’s is incredible, especially for older adults, as is the stress placed on the families of those living with the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the only top 10 cause of death in the United States that cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured. Current medication therapy is lacking and can only help quiet the memory symptoms for a short period of time. There is much more that needs to be done to help patients living with Alzheimer’s.

Wear purple all month long and join the fight to end Alzheimer’s!

References:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/basics/definition/con-20023871

http://alz.org/facts/

Images From: https://alz.org/abam/#getTheFacts