February 25, 2009

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: the Details (2)

There are more and more specialized Alzheimer’s research centers appearing across the world. So far, doctors who have tested for Alzheimer’s disease and other similar forms of dementia have had roughly a 90% average, when it comes to correctly diagnosing this brain dysfunction. This is determined through a series of tests, including questioning the patient (or family) about general health, any past medical problems that s/he might have, and in regards to their ability to perform daily activities. Tests involving memory, counting, attention span, language and problem-solving abilities are also given.

From time to time, medical tests will be given, such as blood work, urinalysis, or a test of the spinal fluid may be performed. Occasionally, brain scans are done also. While these cannot help prove that the patient is suffering from dementia, they are helpful in rule out other diseases with similar symptoms, such as diseases of the thyroid gland, cancers, or drug-related reactions.

We don’t know what, exactly, causes dementia. It is believed that nerve cells are deadened, in areas of the brain that are vital to memory and there are many theories about this. Modern research suggests there may be a link to the gene that creates apolipoprotein in the human body, which helps to carry cholesterol in the blood. Considering some of the risk factors involved, it is believed that there may be a connection between heart disease, cholesterol and dementia, although research is still unconvincing.

Stripping its victims of their memories, their independence, and their lives, dementia is a cruel and frightening disease. There is no certain way to stop dementia once it begins, and there is no known cure for it, up till now. Researchers do agree, however, that getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet will help to lessen your risks of getting dementia. If you think that you are at risk of developing this condition, take the steps now to protect yourself and those you love, not only through education, but also by promoting a safer and healthier lifestyle.

February 18, 2009

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: the Details (1)

The name “dementia” refers to a category of illnesses and conditions that involve the human brain; often characterized by the brain dysfunctions they cause, dementias steadily deprive their victims of memories and even the most common skills, causing them to give up their independence and rely, more and more, upon family and friends even for the simplest tasks. The most general and well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease; a condition which is believed to effect 4-5 million people in the United States alone.

Defined as a progressive brain dysfunction, one of the most universal symptoms of dementia is the state of confusion, which it forms in its victims. Even the word ’dementia’ means ’irrationality’ in Latin and this goes a long way in explaining the frustration, unpredictability and unreasonable behavior those suffering from dementia commonly express. In many cases, during the earlier stages of the disease, it will often cause the patient to become estranged from his or her family; ironic considering that, in most cases, they will sooner or later become solely dependant upon those they have ignored.

Dementia is not easy to diagnose. Throughout life, we experience short periods of memory loss; forgetting names, directions, or that strange feeling when one steps into a room and suddenly forgets what they went in there for. Even at a young age, we experience this and, quite generally, this is considered to be simply a sign of growing older when it occurs with greater frequency. Throughout the years, it has become the belief that, as one ages, we simply tend to forget things.

Naturally, seeing as how dementia occurs gradually, for the most part, it is difficult to spot in its earliest stages. Quite regularly, it isn’t until more severe symptoms occur that it is really attributed to a form of dementia. Even after that, doctors are usually only able to identify “possible” or “probable” cases of dementia, particularly when dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. In case of most forms of dementia, a diagnosis must be determined based on a behavior study, rather than any exact testing; an EEG, brain scan, or tests involving other laboratory instruments cannot verify dementia. In many cases, the only true way of getting an explicit diagnosis is to carry out an autopsy after the person has passed away.

February 11, 2009

Alzheimer’s Disease: How To Define? (2)

When Alzheimer’s occurs, nerve cells generally die in areas of the brain, which are vital to memory and other mental abilities. Many believe that connections between the nerve cells become disrupted; someway, consequently resulting in lower levels of chemicals needed for transmitting signals in the brain. Disrupting these signals would weaken the thinking process of the patient, and may in any case partially explain the forgetfulness so common in Alzheimer’s patients.

Whilst Alzheimer’s disease is known usually occur after age of 60, there are younger people suffering from the condition too. The only exact symptom is the risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease continues to rise with age, though it is not considered to be the normal part of aging.

But will all of the elderly fall victim to this condition? What might be done to prevent it? It’s believed that there are quite a few factors brought into play, in regards to people contracting this disease. Age is, of course, most essential and the most regular risk factor; the numbers of people who have this disease seem to double every year, beyond the age of 65.

Family history is also play a role in whether or not a person may suffer Alzheimer’s. Those families who suffer from early-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease tend to see a possibility of a heritable strain, whereas those who suffer from the more ordinary version of Alzheimer’s find it does not seem to be a matter of genetics. So far, the only risk factor has been actively mentioned in relation to the late-onset variety of Alzheimer’s is a gene that is known to create the protein, ApoE (apolipoprotein), a chemical responsible for helping to carry cholesterol in the blood. Extra studies are being carried out, checking to see the effects of education, diet, and environment and how this may also indicate an enlarged chance of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

There has also been increasing proof that similar risk factors exist, between heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low levels of vitamin foliate, and Alzheimer’s disease. For this reason, scientists continue their studies, optimistic that Alzheimer’s may prove preventable, or at least slowed, through the providing of exercises and healthy diet.

February 04, 2009

Alzheimer’s Disease: How To Define? (1)

Hard to define, Alzheimer’s disease afflicts somewhere between 5 and 15% of people over the age of 65. A progressive disease, grouped as a variety of dementia, it starts out as a few forgotten things here and there and, in time, eventually saps a person of all their memories and skills. A person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will, quite regularly, forget close friends and family, locations, and even the most basic tasks of life. Sadly, it is the most common of all dementias; it is believed that as many as 4-5 million Americans may suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are generally the same; a progressive lack of memory that eventually comes to interfere with everyday life. An Alzheimer’s patient, in their beginning stages, will commonly exhibit what appear to be normal age-related mistakes - a forgotten name, face, and location. Quite often, they find problems spelling some words or doing math questions. As the condition continues and worsens, the forgetfulness begins to interfere with daily, day-to-day routines and, in some cases, may drive the patient to become anxious or aggressive. Ultimately, there is almost always a need for total care as the victim not only loses memories of who s/he was, but also deteriorates until not even knowing the body’s simplest of functions.

The term ‘disease’ may not be the best to describe Alzheimer’s. Thus far, scientists still do not know what causes this condition. Lumped in with a variety of various dementias, it is considered to be a brain disorder that noticeably affects a person’s ability to carry out daily routines or activities.

Based on behavior and mannerisms, Alzheimer’s cannot be determined by EEG, brain scan or other laboratory instruments and tests. In fact, the only way to give a definite diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is for the brain to be examined for amyloid plaques (abnormal clumps) and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain tissues. Unluckily, this can only be performed post-mortem (after the patient has died). It was the presence of these very same brain abnormalities that Germany’s Dr. Alois Alzheimer noticed, upon examining the brain tissue of a woman who had passed away, following an unusual mental illness in 1906, hence the name of the condition.