Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Alzheimer’s disease is “an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s affects mostly senior citizens, and symptoms first appear in most people between 60 and 70. The first signs of Alzheimer’s, though, can be noticed between the ages of 30 and 65. However, it is very rare for younger people to exhibit symptoms. Most cases of dementia are caused by Alzheimer’s disease [1].  It is known that all Alzheimer’s patients have dementia; however, one cannot say that all dementia patients have Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a deadly disease, finishing predictably in death [2].

Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In the early twentieth century (1906), Dr. Alzheimer observed alterations in the brain tissue of a woman who had expired of an uncommon mental disease. Her signs involved loss of memory, language difficulties, and erratic conduct. After her death, Dr. Alzheimer inspected her brain and discovered many uncharacteristic clusters (now called amyloid plaques) and scrambled packets of filaments (now called neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles) [1].  

Based on his findings, he correctly theorized that these anomalous buildups were accountable for the patient’s loss of memory and other mental complications.

The plaques and tangles in the brain are some of the foremost characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. Another characteristic is the damage of contacts between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Neurons conduct communications between different segments of the brain – for example, they conduct communications from the brain to muscles and organs in the body. Many other multifaceted brain alterations are thought to play a function in Alzheimer’s disease.

In the beginning, this impairment seems to take place in the hippocampus of the brain. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is indispensable in forming memories. When neurons perish, further parts of the brain are distressed. In the last stage of Alzheimer’s, destruction is extensive, and brain tissue has shortened substantially.

How many Americans have Alzheimer’s disease?

It is estimated   that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease.  If existing population developments continue, the number of people with AD will increase significantly. However, this trend can be stopped if the disease can be effectively treated or prevented.

The reasons people develop Alzheimer’s are still not fully understood. One known reason is aging.   Age is the most significant accepted risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. In 2010, in the United States, close to 5 million people 65 years and older were living with Alzheimer's illness. A 2013 report from the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that 1/10th of all Americans over 65 are suffering from Alzheimer’s. The proportion goes up to about a third of the population for those who are over 85. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, AD incidence is between 60% and 80% of all incidents of dementia [3].

Incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in South Asia

Globally, at least 44 million individuals live with dementia, making the disease a worldwide health catastrophe that must be tackled. In excess of 4 million individuals have some appearance of dementia in India [4].

In the Southern Indian state of Kerala, 1066 qualified members who were cognitively regular at reference, 104 of them acquired dementia (98 of them were found to have AD) over a continuation time of 8.1 years. The occurrence rates per 1000 person-years for AD was 11.67 for persons aged ≥55 years and greater for those aged ≥65 years (15.54). Individuals who were aged ≥65 years, the global age consistent occurrence rate, was 9.19 per 1000 person-years, prevalence rate of AD raised substantially and proportionally with growing age. These are the initial AD occurrence rates to be conveyed from southern India. When compared to reports from rural North India these occurrence rates appear to be much greater. But they are comparable with those reported from China, and slightly lesser than that reported from the western world [5].

Signs of Alzheimer’s disease

Memory difficulties are characteristically one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s; nonetheless, early indications may differ from individual to individual. A decrease in other facets of thinking, for example forgetting words, sight/three-dimensional problems, and diminished thinking or decision making, may additionally indicate the precise initial periods of Alzheimer’s disease. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a disorder that can be an initial mark of Alzheimer’s. However, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s.

Patients with Alzheimer’s have difficulty performing routine things like paying bills, driving a car, or cooking food. They repeatedly ask the same questions, go astray without difficulty, misplace things or put them in unusual places, and find even easy things puzzling. As the disease advances, some patients become anxious, wrathful, or furious.

Longevity of a person with Alzheimer’s disease?

At the time of diagnosis, if the person is older than 80, they are only likely to live another three or four years. If the person is younger then 80, they could live for as many as ten years or more.

Currently Alzheimer’s disease is graded as the sixth greatest cause of death in the United States. But fresh evaluations show that the illness may be listed as third, after heart disease and cancer, as a source of death for elderly people.

At the present time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, treatment can help patients cope with symptoms [1].

In the 21st century, Alzheimer’s can only be diagnosed with 100 percent precision through a postmortem examination that discloses the occurrence of the distinctive plaques and tangles. However, a complete examination and suitable checkup can afford a dependable diagnosis with better than 90 percent certainty.

Malformed accumulations of particular proteins inside the brain interrupt normal brain performance and produce the reasoning and efficient difficulties characteristically connected with Alzheimer’s Disease. Ultimately, as the sediments expand all over the brain, brain material begins to die. This results in additional intellectual damage. CT scans and MRI scans show the subsequent brain contraction. CT scan shows enlargement of the ventricles in the brain and loss of brain tissue in a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research is endeavoring to ascertain what produces these accumulations and is watching for techniques to avoid or change them before they cause lasting brain destruction [2].

Alzheimer’s is not curable.
Alzheimer’s is not contagious.
Alzheimer’s is not a natural part of the aging process.
Alzheimer’s is not something you get from using deodorant or cooking in aluminum pans.
Alzheimer’s is not inevitable if you live long enough.

In some families, Alzheimer’s disease is hereditary. But these appearances are very rare, and they account for fewer than five percent of all incidents. If a family member like a mother or a brother has Alzheimer’s disease, it doesn’t inevitably mean that you’re prone to contract it as well.

There is no test that can foretell whether you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease, save tests for the very rare hereditary Alzheimer’s. A blood test can tell whether you have a certain form of cholesterol-carrying protein connected with an elevated occurrence of the disease. This examination can’t convey whether you’ll actually contract the condition; at least 50 percent of people who have an elevated risk factor never get Alzheimer’s.

Taking into consideration medical ethics, healthcare authorities counsel against taking this blood test or undertaking other genetic testing because they want to save their patients from unwarranted fear about something that will perhaps never happen. There are others reasons for which they also advise against testing. If a person has the inherited gene or elevated risk factor, it might negatively affect their ability to acquire health insurance or long-term care.

Causes of AD

All types of dementia are a result of brain cell death. As such, Alzheimer’s Disease is also caused by brain cell death. When there is an ongoing brain cell death occurring over a period of time, then it is called a neurodegenerative disease. When the brain tissue has an increasingly smaller number of nerve cells and connections, then the total brain size shrinks due to Alzheimer’s.

Plaques in the brain are a result of the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid (also known as “amyloid plaques”). These plaques cannot be seen or tested for in the living brain affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. A postmortem or autopsy will show these plaques and masses. Plaques are found between the dying cells in the brain.

 These unusual protein clusters in the brain tissue are always present with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists are not yet sure if there could be an additional primary activity that is really causing Alzheimer’s Disease. This sort of alteration in brain nerves is also observed in other illnesses. Researchers want to find out how these protein abnormalities progress so that a cure or treatment might be discovered. Researchers have not completely comprehended why the alterations that lead to Alzheimer's disease befall a patient. It is known that several dissimilar factors are believed to be implicated, aging and a family history of Alzheimer’s, chief among them.

Diagnosis

Alzheimer’s disease is not straightforward to diagnose, as there is no single test for it. The first step physicians take is to rule out other complications before validating whether mental indications and signs are stark enough to be a type of dementia or something else.

Signs and symptoms [6]

Phases of Alzheimer’s Disease:

Aging has effects on memory but not AD.

  • Occasionally forgetting things.
  • Sometimes items are misplaced.
  • Slight temporary memory loss.
  • Not recalling precise particulars.

Early phase

  • Not recollecting incidences of deprived memory.
  • Forgetting names of family or friends.
  • Only close friends or relatives may notice the changes.
  • Some perplexity in conditions outside the acquainted.

Middle-phase

  • Enormous effort recollecting newly acquired knowledge
  • Increasing misperception in numerous situations
  • Difficulties with slumber or sleep
  • Difficulty in recognizing where they are

Late-phase

  • Low capability to reason
  • Difficulties in talking
  • Retelling same dialogues
  • Extra rude, nervous, or suspicious

Treatment

For Alzheimer’s there is no recognized treatment.  The loss of brain cells cannot be stopped or overturned.

Drug therapy

There are no disease-altering medicines obtainable for Alzheimer’s, but some choices may decrease its symptoms and help recover quality of life. Four drugs are available. They’re called cholinesterase inhibitors. They include Donepezil (brand name Aricept), Rivastigmine (Exelon), and Tacrine (Cognex). Another type of drug, called memantine (Namenda), which is an NMDA receptor antagonist, may also be used. This drug may be used alone or with a cholinesterase inhibitor.

Other therapies

As with other kinds of dementia and neurodegenerative illness, a chief part of therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s comes from the patronage given by healthcare personnel. Quality-of-life care becomes more imperative as needs increase with diminishing freedom [3].

There are other treatments outside the US. In India, Alzheimer’s disease is treated with Ayurveda [7]. Ashwaganda, an ancient Herb used in Ayurveda, is confirmed to be a possible cure for Alzheimer’s [8]. It has also been found that Curcumin (in India it is called Haldi) is more efficient at hindering the formation of the protein fragments than many other potential Alzheimer's treatments. Optimizing vitamin D and vitamin B12 intake, as well as a nutritious diet rich in folate and coconut oil, have also been tested as to their efficacy at treating Alzheimer’s Disease [9].

Daily mental challenges

Mental stimulation, particularly acquiring something novel, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is linked with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Researchers theorize that mental tasks assist in developing the brain, making it less prone to the lesions connected with Alzheimer’s Disease [8].

References

  1. What Is Alzheimer’s Disease? National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-alzheimers-disease
  2. Alzheimer's for Dummies, Patricia B. Smith, Mary M. Kenan, Mark Edwin Kunik, Leeza Gibbons. October 2003. http://www.dummies.com/health/knowing-what-alzheimers-is-and-is-not/
  1. What's to know about Alzheimer's disease? Medical News Today. Newsletter. 13 February 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/159442.php
  2.  About Alzheimer’s and Dementia.  org. India, Alzheimer's association. https://www.alz.org/in/dementia-alzheimers-en.asp
  3. Incidence of Alzheimer's disease in India: a 10-years follow-up study. Mathuranath PS1, George A, Ranjith N, Justus S, Kumar MS, Menon R, Sarma PS, Verghese J. Neurol India. 2012 Nov-Dec;60(6):625-30  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23287326
  1. Alzheimer's disease. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alzheimer%27s_disease
  2. Treating Alzheimer’s disease with the help of Ayurveda by Hunila. November 1, 2012 org. http://www.alzheimerindia.org/treating-alzheimers-disease-with-the-help-of-ayurveda/
  1. Ashwaganda: Ancient Herb Proven to be a Potential Cure for Alzheimer's by Dr. Mercola  April 07, 2012 https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/07/ashwaganda-effect-on-alzheimers-disease.aspx
  1. Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease By anh-usa (Alliance for Natural Health) on October 5, 2010. http://www.anh-usa.org/coconut-oil-and-alzheimers-disease/
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