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What Happens To Brain In Alzheimer’s Disease

Stage : Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

What Happens To The Brain During Alzheimer’s? | Unveiled

Stage five marks the beginning of moderate dementia. Memory deficiencies are now becoming severe, and people often require assistance with daily living activities. An individual may start to need help with dressing and preparing meals. Some loved ones may choose to limit their assistance so that the individual still feels some degree of independence. For example, a loved one may lay out the individuals clothes for the day, but allow them to dress independently.

If the individual was previously living independently at home, this would have to change. At this stage, the person requires monitoring and can no longer live alone. If a person in stage five doesnt get the support they need from loved ones or hired help, they often develop behavioral problems such as anger and suspiciousness.

Some of the common symptoms in stage five are:

  • Forgetting important information, such as a home address and phone number
  • Difficulty identifying where they are or what time of day it is
  • Forgetting significant life details, such as where they went to school
  • Inability to remember significant current-day information, such as the name of the President
  • Confusion about picking appropriate types of clothing for the season
  • Repeating the same question
  • Difficulty with simple arithmetic, such as counting down from 20 by twos
  • Wearing the same clothes every day unless theyre reminded to change

Stage five typically lasts 1.5 years.

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Stage : No Impairment

Research now reveals that AD begins years, if not decades, before the onset of noticeable symptoms. Genetic research and much more sophisticated medical science will no doubt make this an important and focused area of study as we march into the future, searching for a cure. But, for now, most of us will never know if we are in the earliest stages of the disease. Unfortunately, doctors can only diagnose probable AD once symptoms begin to manifest. In fact, a definitive diagnosis can only be made through the post-mortem examination of brain tissue.

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How Do People Know They Have It

The first sign of Alzheimer disease is an ongoing pattern of forgetting things. This starts to affect a person’s daily life. He or she may forget where the grocery store is or the names of family and friends. This stage may last for some time or get worse quickly, causing more severe memory loss and forgetfulness.

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Loss Of Neuronal Connections And Cell Death

In Alzheimers disease, as neurons are injured and die throughout the brain, connections between networks of neurons may break down, and many brain regions begin to shrink. By the final stages of Alzheimers, this processcalled brain atrophyis widespread, causing significant loss of brain volume.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.

What Causes Alzheimer Disease

Progression of Alzheimer

Lots of research is being done to find out more about the causes of Alzheimer disease. There is no one reason why people get it. Older people are more likely to get it, and the risk increases the older the person gets. In other words, an 85-year-old is more likely to get it than a 65-year-old. And women are more likely to get it than men.

Researchers also think genes handed down from family members can make a person more likely to get Alzheimer disease. But that doesn’t mean everyone related to someone who has it will get the disease. Other things may make it more likely that someone will get the disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Down syndrome, or having a head injury.

On the positive side, researchers believe exercise, a healthy diet, and taking steps to keep your mind active may help delay the start of Alzheimer disease.

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What Happens In The Brain In Alzheimers Disease

When Alois Alzheimer examined the brain of Auguste Deter, he noted a few distinct pathological changes. The first was that the brain had undergone significant atrophy. It appeared somewhat shrunken compared to a healthy brain.

This atrophying of the AD brain is due to the death of brain cells that occurs in the disease. AD is what is known as a neurodegenerative disease, which is a classification used to refer to diseases that cause the degeneration and death of neurons. A number of diseases fall into this category , but AD is the most common of the group.

Alzheimer also noted unusual formations both within and surrounding neurons. He remarked that distributed all over the cortexthere arefoci which are caused by the deposition of a special substance, and he also mentioned many fibrils located next to each otherthey appear one by one at the surface of the cell. Alzheimer was describing what today are the two hallmark neurological signs of AD: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

The first of these structures, amyloid plaques, consist of collections of small peptides known as amyloid beta, or A, that form large clusters outside of neurons. Normally, enzymes called proteases can help to get rid of unwanted peptides and proteins in the brain. But amyloid plaques are especially resistant to degradation by proteases. Thus, they build up in the brain as the disease progresses their presence is a defining feature of an AD brain.

Stages : Very Severe Decline

Stage seven is the final stage of Alzheimers. Because the disease is a terminal illness, people in stage seven are nearing death. In stage seven of the disease, people lose the ability to communicate or respond to their environment. While they may still be able to utter words and phrases, they have no insight into their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living. In the final stages of Alzheimers, people may lose their ability to swallow.

Need Alzheimers Care?

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What Are The Signs Of End

It is important for caregivers to know when an individual with dementia is close to the end of their life, because it helps ensure they receive the right amount of care at the right time. It can be difficult to know exactly when this time is due to the variable nature of dementias progression, but understanding common end-of-life symptoms of seniors with dementia can help. Below is a timeline of signs of dying in elderly people with dementia:

Final Six Months

  • A diagnosis of another condition such as cancer, congestive heart failure or COPD
  • An increase in hospital visits or admissions

Final Two-to-Three Months

  • Terminal agitation or restlessness
  • An increasing amount of time asleep or drifting into unconsciousness
  • Changes in breathing, including shallow breaths or periods without breathing for several seconds or up to a minute

Patients with dementia are eligible to receive hospice care if they have a diagnosis of six months or less to live if the disease progresses in a typical fashion. Once a patient begins experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is time to speak with a hospice professional about how they can help provide added care and support.

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Causes Of Alzheimer Disease

What Happens When You Have Alzheimer’s 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.

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Creating A Beneficial Environment For People With Dementia

People with dementia can benefit from an environment that is the following:

  • Safe: Extra safety measures are usually needed. For example, large signs can be posted as safety reminders , or timers can be installed on stoves or electrical equipment. Hiding car keys may help prevent accidents and placing detectors on doors may help prevent wandering. If wandering is a problem, an identification bracelet or necklace is helpful.

  • Familiar: People with dementia usually function best in familiar surroundings. Moving to a new home or city, rearranging furniture, or even repainting can be disruptive.

  • Stable: Establishing a regular routine for bathing, eating, sleeping, and other activities can give people with dementia a sense of stability. Regular contact with the same people can also help.

  • Planned to help with orientation: A large daily calendar, a clock with large numbers, a radio, well-lit rooms, and a night-light can help with orientation. Also, family members or caregivers can make frequent comments that remind people with dementia of where they are and what is going on.

How Does Alzheimers Disease Affect The Brain

The brain typically shrinks to some degree in healthy aging but, surprisingly, does not lose neurons in large numbers. In Alzheimers disease, however, damage is widespread, as many neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. Alzheimers disrupts processes vital to neurons and their networks, including communication, metabolism, and repair.

At first, Alzheimers disease typically destroys neurons and their connections in parts of the brain involved in memory, including the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus. It later affects areas in the cerebral cortex responsible for language, reasoning, and social behavior. Eventually, many other areas of the brain are damaged. Over time, a person with Alzheimers gradually loses his or her ability to live and function independently. Ultimately, the disease is fatal.

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Pathway Breakdown Leading To Alzheimer’s Damage

In the second breakdown pathway APP is split by enzymes B-secretase then y-secretase . Some of the fragments that result stick together and form a short chain called an oligomer. Oligomers are also known as ADDL, amyloid-beta derived diffusible ligands. Oligomers of amyloid beta 42 have been shown to cause problems in the communication between neurons. Amyloid beta 42 also produces tiny fibers, or fibrils. When they stick together they form amyloid plaque. Some of these plaques can insert themselves into the membrane of the neuron cell causing substances outside the cell to leak into it, causing further damage. This damage results in a buildup of Amyloid beta 42 peptides leading to neuron dysfunction.

Final Stages Of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer

In the final stages, people may lose the ability to feed themselves, speak, recognize people and control bodily functions. Memory worsens and may become almost non-existent. Constant care is typically necessary. On average, those with Alzheimer’s live for 8 to 10 years after diagnosis, but this terminal disease can last for as long as 20 years.

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What Is Alzheimer Disease

Alzheimer disease, which affects some older people, is different from everyday forgetting. It is a condition that permanently affects the brain. Over time, the disease makes it harder to remember even basic stuff, like how to tie a shoe.

Eventually, the person may have trouble remembering the names and faces of family members or even who he or she is. This can be very sad for the person and his or her family.

It’s important to know that Alzheimer disease does not affect kids. It usually affects people over 65 years of age. Researchers have found medicines that seem to slow the disease down. And there’s hope that someday there will be a cure.

How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed

Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimers disease.

To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:

  • Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
  • Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
  • Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem.
  • Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.

These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.

People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimers or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.

In addition, an early diagnosis provides people with more opportunities to participate in clinical trials or other research studies testing possible new treatments for Alzheimers.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease

AD is a type of dementia, a term used to describe a condition that involves memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. There are a number of different types of dementia, howevereach with its own causes and specific symptom profile. AD is just one variation.

The best-recognized sign of mental decline in AD is problems with memory. In the early stages of the disease, this often manifests as difficulties creating new memories, and problems are especially noticeable with , or memories about information and events . Early on, patients are typically able to maintain older memories and non-declarative memories. Over time, however, all memory can be affected, and even the most enduring memories may deteriorate.

But memory deficits are just one aspect of AD symptomatology. Patients can also experience problems with communication, and the ability to read and write may be impaired. Unpredictable mood disturbances, ranging from apathy and depression to angry outbursts, can occur. Thinking often becomes delusional, and a substantial subset of patients even experience visual hallucinations.

Its not just cognition thats affected, though. Movement is hindered, causing patients to begin to lose mobility and have trouble performing even the simplest acts of self-care. Basic motor functions like chewing and swallowing become faulty, and incontinence eventually occurs.

Alzheimers Mystery Solved: How Amyloid Beta Forms In Brain Nerve Cells

What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?

Amyloid protein forms clumps among neurons . Amyloid in the brain is one of the proteins associated with Alzheimers disease.

In a major breakthrough, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered how amyloid beta the neurotoxin believed to be at the root of Alzheimers disease forms in axons and related structures that connect neurons in the brain, where it causes the most damage. Their findings, published in Cell Reports, could serve as a guidepost for developing new therapies to prevent the onset of this devastating neurological disease.

The new investigation revealed that palAPP is stabilized and prepared for cleavage by beta secretase in special lipid rafts within the neuron known as mitochondria-associated endoplasmic reticulum membranes . We showed for the first time not only that the MAM is where palAPP is processed by beta secretase to make Abeta, but that this happens exclusively in axons and neuronal processes where Abeta does most of its damage, says Bhattacharyya, lead author of the Cell Reports paper. This role for MAMs was previously unknown, though earlier research indicated that they are increased in number and activity in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease.

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When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer Disease

You might feel sad or angry or both if someone you love has Alzheimer disease. You might feel nervous around the person, especially if he or she is having trouble remembering important things or can no longer take care of himself or herself.

You might not want to go visit the person, even though your mom or dad wants you to. You are definitely not alone in these feelings. Try talking with a parent or another trusted adult. Just saying what’s on your mind might help you feel better. You also may learn that the adults in your life are having struggles of their own with the situation.

If you visit a loved one who has Alzheimer disease, try to be patient. He or she may have good days and bad days. It can be sad if you can’t have fun in the same ways together. Maybe you and your grandmother liked to go to concerts. If that’s no longer possible, maybe bring her some wonderful music and listen together. It’s a way to show her that you care and showing that love is important, even if her memory is failing.

Early In Alzheimer Disease

Symptoms develop gradually, so for a while, many people continue to enjoy much of what they enjoyed before developing Alzheimer disease.

Symptoms usually begin subtly. People whose disease develops while they are still employed may not do as well in their jobs. In people who are retired and not very active, the changes may not be as noticeable.

The first and most noticeable symptom may be

  • Forgetting recent events because forming new memories is difficult

  • Sometimes changes in personality

Early in the disease, people become less able to use good judgment and think abstractly. Speech patterns may change slightly. People may use simpler words, a general word or many words rather than a specific word, or use words incorrectly. They may be unable to find the right word.

People with Alzheimer disease have difficulty interpreting visual and audio cues. Thus, they may become disoriented and confused. Such disorientation may make driving a car difficult. They may get lost on their way to the store. People may be able to function socially but may behave unusually. For example, they may forget the name of a recent visitor, and their emotions may change unpredictably and rapidly.

Many people with Alzheimer disease often have insomnia. They have trouble falling or staying asleep. Some people become confused about day and night.

At some point, psychotic behavior develops in many people with Alzheimer disease.

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