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How Does Alzheimer Affect Other Body Systems

How Does Dementia Affect The Body

How does the brain work?

Different forms of dementia affect your body differently, but in one way or another they all affect your brain. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’ disease, which causes degeneration of brain tissue and nerve cells. Frontotemporal dementia also causes damage to nerve cells, but only in the frontal and temporal lobes of your brain. Lewy body dementia is caused by masses of protein in your brain known as Lewy bodies, and vascular dementia affects the arteries that move blood from your heart to your brain. Several other factors that ultimately result in damage to your brain cells or nerves may lead to other forms of dementia as well.

Physical Changes To Expect

Which symptoms you have and when they appear are different for everyone.

Some people have physical problems before serious memory loss.

In one study, people who walked slowly and had poor balance were more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the following 6 years.

Some of the changes you might experience are:

  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Stiff muscles

Diagnosis Of Alzheimer Disease

Alzheimer disease is suspected when the following are present:

  • The diagnosis of dementia has been confirmed.

  • Usually, the most noticeable symptom, particularly in the beginning, is forgetting recent events or not being able to form new memories.

  • Memory and other mental functions have gradually deteriorated and are continuing to deteriorate.

  • The dementia began after age 40 and usually after age 65.

  • Doctors have ruled out other brain disorders that could be causing the problems.

Some symptoms can help doctors distinguish Alzheimer disease from other dementias. For example, visual hallucinations are more common and occur earlier in dementia with Lewy bodies than in Alzheimer disease. Also, people with Alzheimer disease are often better-groomed and neater than people with other dementias.

Information from additional tests helps doctors make the diagnosis of Alzheimer disease and exclude other types and causes of dementia.

Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid , obtained during a spinal tap, and positron emission tomography may be used to help diagnose Alzheimer disease. If CSF analysis detects a low level of beta-amyloid and if PET scans show amyloid deposits or tau deposits in the brain, the diagnosis is more likely to be Alzheimer disease. However, these tests are not routinely available.

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Medications For Cognitive Symptoms

No disease-modifying drugs are available for Alzheimers disease, but some options may reduce the symptoms and help improve quality of life.

Drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors can ease cognitive symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, altered thought processes, and judgment problems. They improve neural communication across the brain and slow the progress of these symptoms.

Three common drugs with Food and Drug Administration approval to treat these symptoms of Alzheimers disease are:

  • donepezil , to treat all stages
  • galantamine , to treat mild-to-moderate stages
  • rivastigmine , to treat mild-to-moderate stages

Another drug, called memantine , has approval to treat moderate-to-severe Alzheimers disease. A combination of memantine and donepezil is also available.

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Alzheimer Disease

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.

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What Are Nervous System Problems

The nervous system has two parts. The brain and spinal cord are the central nervous system . The nerves and muscles are the peripheral nervous system.

People with HIV disease can have several problems with the nervous system. A common problem is peripheral neuropathy. This can cause damage to nerves controlling sensation. Symptoms may include altered sensation, numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness, especially in the feet and legs. See for more information. Central nervous system problems include depression and problems with sleeping, balance, walking, thinking, and memory.

In the early years of AIDS these were all called “HIV-Associated Dementia.” However, a broader range of problems is showing up at present. This is now called HIV-associated Neurological Disturbances , which includes less severe symptoms referred to as Minor Cognitive Motor Disorder.

Before combination antiretroviral therapy was available, about 20% of people with AIDS developed severe dementia. Strong antiretroviral medications have cut the rate of serious dementia. However, with longer survival, more people with AIDS are living with milder neurologic problems. These are estimated to affect 40% to 70% of people with HIV. This is true even if people are taking ART.

Why Did We Fund This Project

‘This project is presented very clearly and it could be helpful to be able to detect dementia as early as possible, particularly if effective treatments can also be developed.’

‘This work really is at the front-edge of finding out why and how AD develops. The use of time-lapse video microscopy sounds very exciting to actually see the inflammatory response.’

‘A well thought out and presented application which makes clear the work to be undertaken. The outcome hopefully will lead to a better understanding of how dementia progresses in the brain.’

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Managing Alzheimer’s Disease Behavior

Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimers include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments drug and nondrug to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimers more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.

What Do We Already Know

What Does Alzheimers Do to the Human Brain?

There is an increasing amount of evidence that the underlying mechanisms behind Alzheimer’s disease may begin years or even decades before symptoms start to show. Many researchers believe that treating those affected at the earliest stage possible will be the most effective way of slowing down the disease or stopping its progression.

The brain’s immune system has long been implicated as a key factor in the development of Alzheimers disease, particularly a specialised type of immune cell called microglia. The microglia help to clear debris and toxic materials from the brain. However, it appears that in Alzheimer’s they do not perform this function correctly or may even contribute directly to the disease process. One theory is that the Alzheimers hallmark amyloid protein activates the microglia, which perform their function properly at first but as more amyloid is produced the system becomes overwhelmed and unregulated. This leads to damage to brain cells.

Some trials for potential Alzheimer’s disease treatments have attempted to prevent the damaging immune response but so far results have been disappointing. This could be because the drugs are broadly targeting the whole immune system rather than just the faulty microglia.

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Causes Of Alzheimer Disease

What causes Alzheimer disease is unknown, but genetic factors play a role: About 5 to 15% of cases run in families. Several specific gene abnormalities may be involved. Some of these abnormalities can be inherited when only one parent has the abnormal gene. That is, the abnormal gene is dominant. An affected parent has a 50% chance of passing on the abnormal gene to each child. About half of these children develop Alzheimer disease before age 65.

One gene abnormality affects apolipoprotein E the protein part of certain lipoproteins, which transport cholesterol through the bloodstream. There are three types of apo E:

  • Epsilon-4: People with the epsilon-4 type develop Alzheimer disease more commonly and at an earlier age than other people.

  • Epsilon-2: In contrast, people with the epsilon-2 type seem to be protected against Alzheimer disease.

  • Epsilon-3: People with the epsilon-3 type are neither protected nor more likely to develop the disease.

However, genetic testing for apo E type cannot determine whether a specific person will develop Alzheimer disease. Therefore, this testing is not routinely recommended.

Risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and smoking, can increase the risk of Alzheimer disease. Treating these risk factors as early as midlife can reduce the risk of mental decline in older age.

Study Shows Link Between Alzheimers And Heart Disease

Recently, researchers discovered that Alzheimers is caused by amyloid beta proteins building up in the spaces between brain cells. While this causes noticeable symptoms in the brain first, this same protein plaque can build up around the heart.

This was discovered in a study that examined 22 patients with Alzheimers and 35 patients without, all of whom were 78 or 79 years old. The goal was to analyze the stiffness present in the hearts left ventricle the thickest chamber of the heart responsible for transporting blood throughout the body.

During the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers discovered that those with Alzheimers had a thicker left ventricle than those without Alzheimers. This thickness was caused by the same plaque protein buildup that was building in the Alzheimers patients brains. The thickness can lead to various cardiovascular issues if and when the left ventricle becomes too thick to successfully pump blood through the body. As a result, this puts Alzheimers patients at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

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Alzheimers Patients And Heart Health

Those with loved ones suffering from Alzheimers should keep the signs of a heart attack in mind. These include chest pain, pain that spreads to the arm, dizziness or nausea, pain in the throat or jaw, and an irregular heartbeat. Not all heart conditions have easily noticeable symptoms like a heart attack, however, which is why it is imperative to see a cardiologist regularly to monitor blood pressure, atherosclerosis and other signs of heart disease. Like Alzheimers, heart conditions are known to worsen over time, and early intervention is key to prevention.


How Does Alzheimers Affect The Body And How Does Memory Care Help

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Chances are youre familiar with the devastating symptoms of Alzheimers disease and how it affects your brain.

Its also very common. Alzheimers disease affects more than 5 million Americans who are over the age of 65, according to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Its statistics like this that demonstrate how important it is to provide special activities and exercises in memory care.

While most Americans are aware of the memory issues and impaired thinking that come with Alzheimers, are you aware that it can affect other systems in your body?

Well take a look at these effects and how assisted living with memory care in Wilmington can help your loved one who may be experiencing these symptoms.

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The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease

Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.

One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .

What Does This Project Involve

The researchers on this project are hoping to understand more about the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s disease to find out if there is a way to target the microglia more effectively with treatments. The team have previously used cutting-edge imaging techniques in fruit flies that have shown that immune cells will travel to areas of the brain where the amyloid protein is present. It is thought that the microglia travel to the amyloid in order to remove it from the brain, but if they become overactive they may end up damaging the brain cell in the process. The researchers will therefore use this imaging technique to understand how the cells travel during the disease process and what the relationship is between the microglia and the amyloid protein. They will then unpick the genetic and molecular aspects that control this behaviour.

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Support For Families And Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers

Caring for a person with Alzheimers can have significant physical, emotional, and financial costs. The demands of day-to-day care, changes in family roles, and decisions about placement in a care facility can be difficult. NIA supports efforts to evaluate programs, strategies, approaches, and other research to improve the quality of care and life for those living with dementia and their caregivers.

Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important long-term strategy. Programs that teach families about the various stages of Alzheimers and about ways to deal with difficult behaviors and other caregiving challenges can help.

Good coping skills, a strong support network, and respite care are other things that may help caregivers handle the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimers. For example, staying physically active provides physical and emotional benefits.

Some caregivers have found that joining a support group is a critical lifeline. These support groups enable caregivers to find respite, express concerns, share experiences, get tips, and receive emotional comfort. Many organizations sponsor in-person and online support groups, including groups for people with early-stage Alzheimers and their families.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

How Is Alzheimer’s Different From Other Forms Of Dementia

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Alzheimer’s disease is distinguished from other forms of dementia by characteristic changes in the brain that are visible only upon microscopic examination during autopsy. Brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease often show presence of the following:

  • Fiber tangles within nerve cells

  • Clusters of degenerating nerve endings

Another characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease is the reduced production of certain brain chemicals necessary for communication between nerve cells, especially acetylcholine, as well as norepinephrine, serotonin, and somatostatin.

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What This Means For You

In addition to food, there are other strategies that have been shown to have a positive effect on gut health. Exercise, de-stress practices, and getting fresh air have all been shown to improve your gut, and one particularly potent step would be to get more quality sleep.

For example, a study published in Sleep Medicine found that theres a relationship between gut microbiome composition, sleep habits, and cognitive flexibility.

Not only does sleep help your microbiome, but it works the other way as well. A healthy gut will give you a better night of sleep, according to W. Christopher Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, and author of The Sleep Solution.

“Sleep disturbances can contribute to gastrointestinal issues, and that can worsen your sleep problems,” he says. “Basically, whatever your goal might be, whether it’s better gut health or improved brain health, it’s easiest to start with establishing good habits around the basics, like sleep, food, exercise, and mindfulness.”

Early Onset Alzheimers Disease

Although age is the main risk factor for Alzheimers disease, this is not just a condition that affects older adults.

According to the Alzheimers Association, early onset Alzheimers disease affects around 200,000 U.S. adults under the age of 65 years. Many people with this condition are in their 40s or 50s.

In many cases, doctors do not know why younger people develop this condition. Several rare genes can cause the condition. When there is a genetic cause, it is known as familial Alzheimers disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.

Can You Prevent Alzheimers Disease

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There is no sure way to prevent Alzheimers disease. However, you can reduce the risk of Alzheimers disease by caring for your health:

  • your heart whats good for your heart is good for your brain so stick to a healthy diet and dont smoke
  • your body regular physical activity increases blood flow to the brain so maintain an active lifestyle
  • your mind an active mind helps build brain cells and strengthens their connections so socialise, do things such as puzzles and crosswords, and learn new things, such as a language

Learn more about the risk factors associated with Alzheimers and other types of dementia, and what you can do to reduce your risk:

Read the related video transcript.

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Ra In The Skeletal System

One of the first indications of RA is inflammation in the small joints of the hands and feet. Often, RA is symmetricalaffecting both sides of the body at once. Symmetry is key to diagnosing RA. Sometimes, RA does not cause symptoms on both sides, especially early on in the disease. The condition will become symmetrical as RA progresses.

Additional joints symptoms of RA include pain, swelling, stiffness, and tenderness. These are usually much worse in the morning and can last for 30 or more minutes. RA can also cause tingling or burning in the joints.

RA symptoms can affect any of your joints, especially as RA progresses. This includes symptoms in the hands, feet, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles.

As the disease progresses, it will affect tendons, ligaments, and muscles. These symptoms will eventually lead to range-of-motion problems and difficulty with moving your joints. Long-term inflammation in affected joints will cause those joints to become damaged and deformed.

Having RA can put you at a higher risk for osteoporosisa condition that bone loss and weakness. This weakness can eventually lead to bone fractures .

Ongoing inflammation in your wrists may lead to a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome, which can make it harder to use your wrists and hands. This same inflammation can cause weakness and damage the bones of your neck and cervical spine causing severe, ongoing pain.


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