Tangles And Cell Death
In normal brain tissue, a protein called tau stabilizes microtubules. Microtubules are key parts of cell structure.
In a diseased brain, protein strands, or threads, become tangled. As a result, the brain system of transporting cell nutrients along parallel structures which can be compared to railroad tracks falls apart.
Without these critical nutrients, brain cells die.
Memory and thinking depend on the transmission of signals across 100 billion neurons in the brain.
AD interferes with this cell signal transmission. It also affects the activity of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
The scrambled chemistry produces flawed signaling, so the brains messages are lost. This impacts the ability to learn, remember, and communicate.
Microglia are a type of cell that initiate immune responses in the brain and spinal cord. When AD is present, microglia interpret the beta-amyloid plaque as cell injury.
The microglia go into overdrive, stimulating inflammation that further damages brain cells.
Some AD research focuses on how this inflammatory response can be reduced or controlled.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior. In Alzheimer’s disease, large numbers of neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die.
Irreversible and progressive, Alzheimer’s disease slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living.
The stages of the disease typically progress from mild to moderate to severe. Symptoms usually develop slowly and gradually worsen over a number of years however, progression and symptoms vary from person to person. The first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease usually appears as forgetfulness.
Mild cognitive impairment is a stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities. Not everyone with MCI develops Alzheimer’s disease.
Other early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include language problems, difficulty performing tasks that require thought, personality changes and loss of social skills.
People with severe Alzheimer’s disease are unable to recognize family members or understand language.
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 .
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Who Has Alzheimers Disease
- In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
- Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.
Emotion And Behavior Treatments
The emotional and behavioral changes linked with Alzheimers disease can be challenging to manage. People may increasingly experience irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, sleep problems, and other difficulties.
Treating the underlying causes of these changes can be helpful. Some may be side effects of medications, discomfort from other medical conditions, or problems with hearing or vision.
Identifying what triggered these behaviors and avoiding or changing these things can help people deal with the changes. Triggers may include changing environments, new caregivers, or being asked to bathe or change clothes.
It is often possible to change the environment to resolve obstacles and boost the persons comfort, security, and peace of mind.
The Alzheimers Association offer a list of helpful coping tips for caregivers.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend medications for these symptoms, such as:
- antidepressants, for low mood
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What Happens In Brain Cells Affected By Alzheimer’s Disease
Affecting over 50 million people, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and primarily occurs in people over the age of 65. The pathology of the disease in the brain is mainly characterized by two factors: beta-amyloid plaques outside the nerve cells and tau proteins. The tau protein stabilizes tube-like structures inside cells, which are relevant for the transport of nutrients in nerve cells. Beta-amyloid is a protein present in the body that is formed by the cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein .
Two more protein candidates in cells
“To understand this mechanism even better, we looked for other proteins that might be part of these aggregates and identified two more candidates involved in the nuclear aggregates, the so-called tumor suppressor proteins P53 and PML,” explains David Marks. The study team showed in experiments on living cells that nuclear aggregates formed from the proteins APP-CT50, FE65, TIP60 and PML fuse with each other over time and produce even larger nuclear aggregates.
A Step Closer To Understanding How Brain Cells Die In Alzheimers Disease
New research from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland has brought us a step closer to understanding how protein clumps called amyloid plaques contribute to the death of brain cells in Alzheimers disease.
The research, published in the highly regarded journal Stem Cell Reports, shows that an increased production of plaques surprisingly does not lead to an increase in brain cell death, suggesting that they dont kill neurons directly or, if they do, they dont work alone.
Currently, Alzheimers disease effects around a quarter of a million Australians, accounting for more than two-thirds of all dementia cases.
One of the major hallmarks of Alzheimers disease is the accumulation of the so-called beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques are formed when a type of protein in the brain, called amyloid precursor protein , is broken down into smaller fragments. These fragments, which are called beta-amyloid, then clump together to form plaques.
It is widely thought that these amyloid plaques contribute to the death of neurons in people with Alzheimers, either directly, or by causing another protein, called tau, to form toxic neurofibrillary tangles. Thus, reducing amyloid plaques has been the focus of many efforts to treat the condition.
People with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, and therefore carry an extra copy of the amyloid precursor protein gene, says lead author Dr Dmitry Ovchinnikov.
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Focus On Brain Health This Alzheimers Awareness Month
By 2030, more than 76 million people worldwide will struggle with Alzheimers Disease, and many more will experience some type of brain health issues. National Alzheimers Month 2021 is an opportunity to learn more about Alzheimers disease and to start conversations with those you love about brain health.
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Dementia And The Brain
Knowing more about the brain and how it can change can help to understand the symptoms of dementia. It can help a person with dementia to live well, or to support a person with dementia to live well.
These pages explain which areas of the brain are responsible for certain skills and abilities, and how these are affected by dementia. We explain how changes to the brain relate to changes a person may notice as the condition progresses.
This information is helpful for anyone who wants to find out more about how the brain is affected by dementia.
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How Alzheimers Disease Impacts The Brain
November 26, 2019Neurology
One condition becoming all too common today is Alzheimers disease, a brain condition that is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. The Alzheimers Association defines the disease as a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.
Alzheimers doesnt happen all at once. In fact, the symptoms may at first be dismissed as simply getting older, if doctors and family members arent vigilant. Early symptoms include relatively small issues like trouble learning new things or remembering details. Eventually, the symptoms grow to the point of inability to care for oneself or understand ones surroundings. So, where does the brain with Alzheimers disease go wrong?
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
Watch this video play circle solid iconMemory Loss is Not a Normal Part of Aging
Alzheimers disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimers disease and related dementias.
In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimers disease may experience one or more of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesnt mean its Alzheimers disease. Know the 10 warning signs .
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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.
More Information About Alzheimer Disease
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
Alzheimer’s Association: This web site provides information about Alzheimer disease, including statistics, causes, risk factors, and symptoms. It also provides resources for support, including information about daily care of people with Alzheimer disease, care for the caregiver, and support groups.
The Alzheimer’s Society: This web site provides a guide to dementia , a guide for caregivers, and information about types of dementia, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, risk factors, and prevention.
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Alzheimer’s Disease Information Page: This web site defines Alzheimer disease and provides information about treatment, prognosis, and available clinical trials and links to other organizations focused on Alzheimer disease.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimers. Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment . With MCI, people have more memory problems than normal for their age, but their symptoms do not interfere with their everyday lives. Movement difficulties and problems with the sense of smell have also been linked to MCI. Older people with MCI are at greater risk for developing Alzheimers, but not all of them do so. Some may even revert to normal cognition.
The first symptoms of Alzheimers vary from person to person. For many, decline in nonmemory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment may signal the very early stages of the disease. Researchers are studying biomarkers to detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and in cognitively normal people who may be at greater risk for Alzheimers. More research is needed before these techniques can be used broadly and routinely to diagnose Alzheimers in a health care providers office.
How Dementia Causes Death
A person in the late stage of dementia is at risk for many medical complications, like a urinary tract infection and pneumonia . They’re at an even higher risk of certain conditions because they’re unable to move.
Trouble swallowing, eating, and drinking leads to weight loss, dehydration, and malnutrition. This further increases their risk of infection.
In the end, most people with late-stage dementia die of a medical complication related to their underlying dementia.
For example, a person may die from an infection like aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia usually happens because of swallowing problems.
A person may also die from a blood clot in the lung because they are bedbound and not mobile.
It’s important to know that late-stage dementia is a terminal illness. This means that dementia itself can lead to death. Sometimes this is appropriately listed as the cause of death on a death certificate.
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.
Alzheimers Disease Vs Other Types Of Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that involve a loss of cognitive functioning.
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia. It involves plaques and tangles forming in the brain. Symptoms start gradually and are most likely to include a decline in cognitive function and language ability.
To receive a diagnosis of Alzheimers, a person will be experiencing memory loss, cognitive decline, or behavioral changes that are affecting their ability to function in their daily life.
Friends and family may notice the symptoms of dementia before the person themselves.
There is no single test for Alzheimers disease. If a doctor suspects the presence of the condition, they will ask the person and sometimes their family or caregivers about their symptoms, experiences, and medical history.
The doctor may also carry out the following tests:
- cognitive and memory tests, to assess the persons ability to think and remember
- neurological function tests, to test their balance, senses, and reflexes
- blood or urine tests
- a CT scan or MRI scan of the brain
- genetic testing
A number of assessment tools are available to assess cognitive function.
In some cases, genetic testing may be appropriate, as the symptoms of dementia can be related to an inherited condition such as Huntingtons disease.
Some forms of the APOE e4 gene are associated with a higher chance of developing Alzheimers disease.
Treatment Of Alzheimer Disease
Safety and supportive measures
Drugs that may improve mental function
Treatment of Alzheimer disease involves general measures to provide safety and support, as for all dementias. Also, certain drugs can help for a while. The person with Alzheimer disease, family members, other caregivers, and the health care practitioners involved should discuss and decide on the best strategy for that person.
Pain and any other disorders or health problems are treated. Such treatment may help maintain function in people with dementia.
What Is Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimerdisease, 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.
Its 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 theres hope that someday there will be a cure.
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How Long Can A Person Live With Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers is a slow disease that progresses in three stages an early, preclinical stage with no symptoms, a middle stage of mild cognitive impairment, and a final or late stage. The disease progression varies from person to person, and not everyone experiences the same symptoms. People can live anywhere from 2 to 20 years after a diagnosis, though the average is 3 to 11 years.
Alzheimers is currently ranked as the 6th-leading cause of death in the United States, but it is the 3rd-leading cause of death in San Diego County.
Take Action To Address Alzheimers Disease
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Alzheimers disease. Although early treatment can slow its progression, the condition is ultimately fatal. This doesnt mean that you cant significantly improve the length and quality of life for an Alzheimers patient, however.
Have your family members get checked for signs of Alzheimers as they get older, especially if the condition runs in your family or youre worried about memory problems/other symptoms. Catching the condition sooner will make treatments more likely to have better results, and give you more time to spend with your loved ones. Remember, it is possible to sustain a better quality of life with proper treatment. Early detection is the best way to make this possible.
can help diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other causes of dementia. Dealing with this disease can be a strain mentally, emotionally, and financially, but you don’t have to do it alone!
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