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Alzheimer’s Disease

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Essay title: Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's Disease

AlzheimerЎ¦s disease is a slow, progressive, and degenerative disease of the brain. This disease is marked by a gradual loss of memory and other cognitive functions. "Alzheimer's Disease is also known as the most common cause of dementia--a general term referring to the loss of memory and the ability to think, reason, function, and behave properly" (Medina,1999). It primarily affects adults in their 60's or older and eventually destroys a person's ability to perform simple, routine tasks or even to care for themselves. Statistics show that "as many as 10 percent of all people 65 years of age and older have Alzheimer's," and that approximately "50 percent of all people 85 or older also have the disease" (WebMD, n.d.).

Originally it was thought to be a rare condition affecting only young people, and was referred to as pre-senile dementia. Today late-onset AlzheimerЎ¦s disease is recognized as the most common cause of the loss of mental function in those aged 65 and over. "AlzheimerЎ¦s in people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, called early-onset AlzheimerЎ¦s disease, occurs much less frequently, accounting for less than 10 percent of the estimated 4 million AlzheimerЎ¦s cases in the United States" (Encarta, 2004). Alzheimer's disease advances in stages, progressing from mild absentmindedness and cognitive impairment to widespread loss of mental abilities. In advanced Alzheimer's, people become dependent on others for every aspect of their care. The most common cause of death among Alzheimer's patients is infection. Even though scientists are still learning about AlzheimerЎ¦s, there is no cure.

Alzheimer's disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor. "In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. He found abnormal clumps (now called amyliod plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles) within the brain"(ADEAR, 2004). Scientists have found that tangles and plaques cause the neurons in the brains of AlzheimerЎ¦s patients to shrink and eventually die. They start in the memory and language centers and finally invade throughout the brain. "This widespread neuron degeneration leaves gaps in the brainЎ¦s messaging network that may interfere with communication between cells, causing some of the symptoms of AlzheimerЎ¦s disease" (Cutler & Sramek, 1996). Today, these certain plaques and tangles found in the brain are considered to be the tell tale signs of Alzheimer's disease.

The cause of AlzheimerЎ¦s disease still remains a mystery today. Researchers are learning about what happens to the brain as we grow old, what happens to brain cells in Alzheimer's Disease, which genes are associated, and many other factors that may be significant. Some of the most promising AlzheimerЎ¦s research is being conducted in the field of genetics to learn the role a family history of the disease has in its development. Scientists have learned that "people who are carriers of a specific version of the apolipoprotein E gene (apoE gene), found on chromosome 19, are several times more likely to develop AlzheimerЎ¦s than carriers of other versions of the apoE gene. Nearly half of all late-onset AlzheimerЎ¦s patients have the less common apoE4 version and research has shown that this gene plays a role in AlzheimerЎ¦s disease"(Cutler & Sramek, 1996). Scientists have also found evidence that "variations in one or more genes

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