AD

Alzheimer's Disease

Definition

Alzheimer's disease is a disease affecting people mostly 65 and older. It targets the nervous system; Beta Amyloid Plaques and neurofibrillary tangles block connections between neurons and prevent nutrients from going to neurons, causing the neurons to die and memory loss.

Nervous System

The nervous system normally works to send signals to the body so that the brain can maintain control over the rest of the body. With Alzheimer's, connections between neurons are lost and they can't get nutrition, causing them to die and lose memories.
What is Alzheimer's disease? - Ivan Seah Yu Jun
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Above is a diagram of a healthy neuron.
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Signs and Symptoms

  • extreme memory loss
  • sudden changes in mood/ personality
  • forgetting how to do simple tasks (tying shoes, etc)
  • In later stages- forgetting names of close friends and family, self
  • less advanced vocabulary

Diagnosis

This disease is diagnosed by a person displaying symptoms of extreme memory loss, such as forgetting something huge in their life (own name, family members, etc) or something that they've seemingly known forever (for example- forgetting how to tie shoes, where they are in a familiar area, etc). Another sign of AD is sudden changes in mood. AD can be confirmed using Pittsburgh Compound B, which acts as a dye and adheres to amyloid plaques to make them seen on a PET scan.

There are no concrete ways of diagnosing Alzheimer's before these symptoms occur, but there are ways that scientists can predict the chances of getting the disease. For instance, if you are a carrier of ApoE, an allele that would form on chromosome 19, you have a higher percent chance of getting AD than someone who isn't a carrier (this allele is not a marker for African-Americans for unknown reasons). Another reason that one might have a higher risk for Alzheimer's would be if he/she used benzodiazepines (valium, Xanax, and Ativan being examples) for a long period of time (>3 months) causes a higher risk for contracting AD.

Treatments and Prognosis

People can live for up to 20 years with Alzheimer's, but the average life span of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer's is 7-10 years. There are currently no treatments, but use of anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc) earlier in life decreases the chances of getting Alzheimer's.

Connection

My grandfather has Alzheimer’s, and I was finding that I didn’t really know about the disease, or, to be more specific, what the science behind it is so I decided that it would be useful to research something that is pertinent to my present life.