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Alzheimer's Disease Essay

1768 words - 8 pages

Alzheimer's is a very serious degenerative brain disease. It is a genetic illness that not only affects memory, but behavior and motor functions, as well. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is the loss of memory, reasoning, judgment, and language. Dementia is diagnosed as a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities. Alzheimer's begins slowly and gets worse over time. Although symptoms can vary, the first problem many people notice is forgetfulness. Other symptoms are confusion, getting lost in familiar places, misplacing things, and having trouble with language.Alzheimer's Disease affects especially the cerebral ...view middle of the document...

" (2) Along with brain exercise, physical exercise makes healthier DNA and nerve cells (not to mention the reduction in stress and depression). Exercise stimulates the growth of new nerve cells and improves the ability to learn. "A protein that forms plaques in people with Alzheimer's disease takes part in the normal process of forgetting and remembering". (3) Neurons produce beta-amyloid, also known as A-beta. This is a sticky protein that smothers neurons with plaque. "A-beta forms when enzymes snip a large protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP) into smaller pieces. A-beta then sticks to intact APPs, stimulating enzymes called caspases to clip APPs again." (3) This process is necessary for deleting unnecessary memories, thereby clearing space in the brain for new information to be received. It appears that young brains make and dissolve memories very quickly, "but older brains gradually get slower at both remembering and forgetting. People with Alzeimer's get stuck in reverse, dissolving memories faster than they make them." (3) "Looking at a brain afflicted by Alzheimer's disease is like looking at a battlefield after the war," says Dr. Bruce Yankner, a Harvard Medical School professor. (1) There are seven stages to Alzheimer's: stage one shows normal function where as stage seven, which is called the final stage, shows where the individual loses their ability to respond to the environment, and eventually to control movement. Alzheimer's disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions. In the Alzheimer brain the cortex shrivels up damaging areas involved in thinking, planning, and remembering. Shrinkage is especially severe in the hippocampus, an area of the cortex that plays a key role in formation of new memories. Scientists can also see the terrible effects of Alzheimer's disease when they look at brain tissue under the microscope. Alzheimer tissue has fewer nerve cells and synapses than a healthy brain. Plaques: abnormal clusters of protein fragments, build up between nerve cells. Dead and dying nerve cells contain tangles, which are made up of twisted strands of another protein. Plaques and tangles tend to spread through the cortex in a predictable pattern as Alzheimer's disease progresses. The rate of progression varies greatly. People with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years, but some people may survive up to 20 years. The course of the disease depends in part on age at diagnosis and whether a person has other health conditions. Scientists are not absolutely sure what causes cell death and tissue loss in the Alzheimer brain, but plaques and tangles are prime suspects.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications to treat cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. These drugs affect the activity of two different chemicals involved in carrying messages between the brain's nerve cells:...

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