Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease (Senile Dementia)

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, it is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. Alzheimer’s patients have better procedural memory than declarative memory, which means that these patients can learn new skills but then they surprise themselves with their good performance because they don’t remember doing it before. Memory and alertness vary substantially from one time to another within a day, suggesting that many of the problems result from malfunctioning neurons, not just death of neurons.

Alzheimer’s disease gradually progresses to more serious memory loss, confusion, depression, restlessness, hallucinations, delusions, sleeplessness and loss of appetite.  Alzheimer’s strikes people younger than age 40 but becomes more common with increasing age, affecting almost 5% of the people between ages 65 and 74 and 50% over 85.

One major clue to the cause of Alzheimer’s was the fact that people with down syndrome ( a type of mental retardation) almost invariably got Alzheimer’s if they survive till their mid ages. People with down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21 rather than two, After thorough examination of this chromosome, investigators found a gene linked to early onset of Alzheimer’s.

These genes cause a protein called amyloid-β to accumulate both inside and outside neurons. High levels of this protein, damage the axon and dendrites. Damaged structures then cluster with each other to form a structure called plaques. As plaques accumulate, the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and other areas disintegrate.

In addition, Alzheimer’s patients also accumulate another protein called tau protein. This protein produces tangles, structures formed from degenerating structures within neural cell bodies. Combination of amyloid and tau produces the behaviour deficits.

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Cerebral cortex of an Alzheimer’s patient 

So far there is no cure for Alzheimer’s however, there are medications and management strategies that may temporarily improve symptoms. A promising approach for preventing Alzheimer’s is to decrease amyloid-β production by increasing consumption of antioxidants, such as those found in dark fruits and vegetables. A particular promising is curcumin, a component of turmeric, a spice in Indian curries Research found that curcumin reduced amyloid and plaque levels in mice.

Preventing Alzheimer’s 

  • Keep your brain active by playing mind games and learning new skills
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain an active social life
  • Limit your intake of alcohol
  • Eat a healthy diet, limit salt and fats
  • Avoid smoking
  • Check your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels

 

Reference

Millions Could Miss Out on a Potential Alzheimer’s Breakthrough. (2018). Consumer HealthDay. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from https://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/alzheimer-s-news-20/millions-could-miss-out-on-a-potential-alzheimer-s-breakthrough-728421.html (Featured image)

Alzheimer’s disease prevention. (2018). Healthdirect.gov.au. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/alzheimers-disease-prevention

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