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Alzheimer Disease And Research

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Normal Brain and Alzheimer's Brain

Normal Brain and Alzheimer's Brain

Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

There are 47 million people with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. By 2030, they expect 76 million people to be affected. Approximately 70% of the people with dementia have Alzheimer's disease, which affects memory, thinking and behavior.

Alzheimer’s disease is classified under cortical dementia, which means there is brain damage that primarily affects the brain cortex or outer layer of the brain. It causes memory impairment, thinking problems, problems with language, decision-making ability, judgment, and personality are necessary features for this diagnosis.

Signs And Symptoms

Early symptoms are primarily found in the memory, such as trouble remembering the name of familiar objects, misplacing items or getting lost on a familiar route. Difficulty in performing tasks that take some thought but used to come easily, such as balancing the checkbook is also common.

Personality changes will eventually occur. As the symptoms become worse they interfere more and more with the patient's ability to take care of themselves

Aloysius Alzheimer M.D.  14 June 1864

Aloysius Alzheimer M.D. 14 June 1864

Risk Factors

Age and family history are the primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, and the older you get the greater your chance of developing this disease. Having a close blood relative that has or had the disease puts you at higher risk.

The risk of Alzheimer's appears to increase as a result of several different conditions that damage the heart or blood vessels. The things to be concerned include: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Brain Abnormalities of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease has two abnormalities in the brain: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Yet, the only way to know for certain if someone has Alzheimer's disease is to examine a sample of their brain tissue after death.

There are three single-gene mutations found on chromosomes, which are associated with the early-onset disease. They include:

  1. Amyloid precursor protein (APP)
  2. Presenilin 1 (PSEN1)
  3. Presenilin 2 (PSEN2)

Abnormal proteins are then produced, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The function of these proteins is not fully understood.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

There are 3 stages of Alzheimer’s disease, including:

  1. Mild Alzheimer’s disease - memory loss and some other cognitive difficulties
  2. Moderate Alzheimer’s disease - areas of the brain responsible for reasoning, language, sensory processing and conscious thought are affected
  3. Severe Alzheimer’s disease - unable to talk and dependent on others for their care

In the early onset, symptoms appear before age 60, representing 10% of all cases. They are less acute; the late onset tends to progress more rapidly. In late onset the development of the disease happens after age 60 or older. The genetic role is less clear. When a person has severe Alzheimer’s disease they may be almost bed ridden as it is near the end of their lives.

Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Diagnosis and Treatment

In addition to a history and physical, the doctor will also order other tests to rule out thyroid disease, vitamin deficiency, brain tumor, stroke, chronic infection, anemia and severe depression. They will do a CAT scan to look for other causes of dementia, such as a brain tumor or stroke.

Unfortunately, there's no cure for Alzheimer's disease. The earlier the disease is diagnosed the better it can be treated. Doctors will attempt to slow the disease, which is difficult. They try to manage behavior problems, such as, confusion, sleep problems and agitation. Families usually modify their home environment, and caregivers need a lot of support from other family members.

Your local Alzheimer's Association Chapter can connect you with many resources that will help you cope with the challenges of this disease. They also have an eight week educational course called EASE and the Wanderers ID program, which gives a GPS tracking device to be worn in case the patient wanders off. This is worn as a watch, and it also has a separate clip on a pager.

Drug treatment has been mostly unsuccessful, as sometimes symptoms become even worse. Medications are given in hopes of slowing the progress of the disease.

There are medications available:

  • Donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne), which affects the level of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Memantine (Namenda) the Exelon patch and Namzaric(a combination of memantine and donepezil) is approved for treating moderate to severe Alzheimers.

Many people take folate (vitamin B 9), vitamin B12, ginkgo biloba and vitamin E. However, there is no evidence that these vitamins will slow down the disease. Researchers have found the Mediterranean diet is more effective in slowing cognitive decline.

Advances in Alzheimer's Disease Research

Research

There is a vast amount of ongoing research. The first study for Alzheimer's was started in 1982, but it's really over the last 20 years that scientists have made enormous strides in understanding this disease. At this time medication just treats the symptoms and not the disease itself.

England, France and the United States have collaborated on Alzheimer’s disease genetics. These researchers work to identify the contributing genes for risk and the progression of the disease. They want to identify the proteins and any target for the development of new medications.

One research project, the Gap Study, is using Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIg), which focuses on the underlying causes of Alzheimer's instead of just the symptoms. In this study patients are continuing to take their current medications in addition to the Immune Globulin. This study is being conducted at several sites around the country.

The best scenario is to have a blood test for early detection and screening for Alzheimer's disease. That would give significantly more people in the world access to testing and future treatments.

decades of research, we now know that Alzheimer's disease-related memory problems are just the tip of the iceberg of underlying degenerative processes in the brain that have been silently developing over years or even decades.

These processes result from abnormal aggregation of amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, with these aggregates being the defining pathological features of Alzheimer's disease. Until recently, it was only possible to detect these protein aggregates in the brains of deceased patients at autopsy.

Each person with Alzheimer's has at least one caregiver and many other people are involved in their disease, such as social workers, doctors, volunteers and support workers and host of other people may be directly or indirectly involved in their care.

How Roche Is Advancing Alzheimer's Research

In Summary

Researchers are working hard to find a blood test to diagnose this disease in the early stages. They are also working to identify protective factors that interact with the genes and also lifestyle factors that impact the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A global objective is to deliver a disease-modifying treatment for dementia by 2025. There are studies that show which treatments are the most effective.

If you need more information about Alzheimer's diseases call the Alzheimer Association helpline 1-800-272-3900, available 24/7. Their website also has a wealth of information.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 04, 2021:

Hi Devika,

There have been some strides in treating this awful disease, but there is not cure. Thank you for your comments. Take care.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 04, 2021:

Informative and so much to know that you have brought to light.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 03, 2021:

Hi Rachel,

I agree that this is an awful disease. I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Age does not always matter eigher.

I appreciate your comments. Stay safe and healthy.

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on February 02, 2021:

A dear friend of mine died from this disease. It was horrible. She wasn't that old either. I guess there is no age limit to Alzheimer's. I pray for them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 27, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I agree. I was glad to see the amount of research and hope there is a cure soon.

I appreciate your comments. Have a good day!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 26, 2021:

This is such a horrible disease. I hope better treatments and a cure are found soon. Thanks for sharing the information, Pamela

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2021:

Hi Sp,

From my research I found it will be even more common, which is heartbreaking. It is so hard on families too.

Thank you so much for your comments.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on January 26, 2021:

This is such a tough disease that I wouldn't wish on anyone. It would be great if future research found a cure for this.

It seems to be getting more common here in recent years with people in the 50+ age group getting diagnosed with it. Very scary.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2021:

Hi Vidya,

This is a disease that is awfully hard on family members, as you said. I think this is a very horrid disease. I hope they can find a cure in the not too distant future, as there is a lot of research happening now.

Thank you so much for your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

You have had some personal experience with this horrid disease. While we can't prove someone has Alzheimer's disease before death, the behavior of the individual sure gives us strong clues.

It is a shame that these medicines are so expensive, and insurance should cover the bulk of the cost. Everybody is different, so a medication might help the symptoms in one person and not in another. The bottome line is, there is no cure right now. I hope that changes in the future.

I certainly appreciate your generous comments, as always. Stay safe and healthy, Brenda.

VIDYA D SAGAR on January 26, 2021:

Great article, Pamela. This is truly a terrible disease. And it is sad that there is no cure for it. Very difficult and painful for the family as well as the sufferer. It is good that a lot of research is being done on it. Hope a cure is found soon.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 26, 2021:

Pamela,

I finally see this one in the news feed.

Your article is excellent!

It covers so much detail about Alzheimer's.

I was unaware that Alzheimer's can really only be detected at time of death from brain tissue.

As you know, my step father suffered from this illness.

It is the most terrible disease I know. It hurts everyone in it's path. Not being able to remember one's face or name or where you are even at.

My only hope is that the person suffering from this disease is not realizing this torment.

I don't have an answer for that one.

The medications you mentioned are quite expensive and oftentimes not even covered by insurance.

In my opinion...they really do not work.

I supoose each person may react differently, so the option is up to them.

Thanks for writing such a great article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2021:

Hi Peg,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. This is surely a tough disease. Stay healthy!

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on January 26, 2021:

Another informative look into medical issues that trouble us. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

Early diagnosis is good with any disease. This disease is so awful, and I hope they can get improved treatments. I appreciate your comments. Take care.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

I was happy to see all the research as this is such a horrible disease. I hope the article helps some people.

Thank you for your comments. Take care.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

This is such a heartbreaking disease for him and all the family. I appreciate your comments. Take care.

Adrienne Farricelli on January 26, 2021:

It's quite scary to see in the illustrations how this disease impacts the brain. Testing to diagnose this early for sure could be extra helpful. I hope they reach that Alzheimers' treatment goal by 2025.

Rosina S Khan on January 25, 2021:

It was good to know about Alzheimer disease. Although there is no cure for it yet, I am glad to know there is a lot of research going on. This was a really helpful article about the disease. I will share it with those who need it. Thank you, Pamela, for the amazing share.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 25, 2021:

I have an elderly uncle with this and it’s very sad. He introduces himself to me, asks who my husband is, tells us the same story and asks the same questions over and over and over. He gets scared too and makes inappropriate comments. He forgot he had a daughter and she used to be the apple of his eye. It’s completely unlike the person he used to be.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

Yes, this is a very difficult disease for the family too. It was rewarding to see the vast amount of research.

I appreciate your comments, Manatita. God bless you

manatita44 from london on January 25, 2021:

Difficult for those whos loved ones are experiencing this disease. You have covered it well. It's good to know that research is ongoing and that there's hope

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

I feel the same way. The whole family is affected for sure, and it is heartbreaking.

I hope they get the blood test for early detection, the sooner the better for any treatments.

I appreciate your comments, as always. Have a great week, Peggy.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Jason,

First, I am not a doctor. I am an RN, and I do a lot of research before writing medical articles.

I think lack of sleep could exacerbate the symptoms once you have Alzheimer's disease, but it would not cause it. As we age we all forget names sometimes. Thank is not abnormal.

You would have dementia before it would become Alzheimer's disease. I have read your articles, and you certainly don't seem confused.

Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 25, 2021:

This is such a sad disease for not only the person affected but also for everyone around them. My aunt ended up in a nursing home and did not even recognize her sons. I hope that they keep working on early diagnosis and potential cures.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Charlene,

I am sorry you have a family member with this diseease, and I know how hard that is on the family.

I hope there will be a cure in the not too distant future. Thank you for your comments. Have a good week, Charlene.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I am so sorry to hear about your personal experience. This is a horrid disease, and there is not cure. I was glad to see the vast amount of research, so maybe some day.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a good week, Linda!

Charlene Gallant from Cape Town, South Africa on January 25, 2021:

Shoo profound and detailed article Pamela. It always make me so sad to read about this disease as a family member is living with it right now, so hard to watch their personality shift. All the years seem to just disappear in a blink of an eye, so heartbreaking. Thank you for all the information, will dissect and glean as much as I can from it.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 25, 2021:

Pamela, you've done such a good job of explaining this disease and the work that is being done to find a solution, or at least a clearer path to diagnosis.

I hate this disease more than cancer, more than heart ailments, stroke, or anything else. All of those offer some glimmer of hope, but for AD there is nothing. I've lost my mom, two sisters, my next door neighbor and am losing my best friend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Miebakagh,

I think you are doing all the right things, and you chances of staying healthy are very good.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Ann,

I also think it is an awful disease. I hope they perfect the blood test for a very early diagnosis. Then at least you would know what to expect and treatment could maybe delay the inevitable.

Thank you so much for your comments, which I always appreciate. Have a great week, Ann!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

That is the sad part, as there is no cure. I was glad to see there was so much research ongoing.

Thank you so much for your nice comments. I hope you have a good week.

Jason Behm from Cebu, Philippines on January 25, 2021:

Does lack of sleep contribute to Alzheimer's? I hope experts could find a solution if not cure, at least a medicine that could inhibit its effects on our body and behavior.

I have some instances which I could forget names of my friends and a name of a particular object especially when I lack sleep. I hope this isn't a bad sign after all but for sure a call to take care of my health.

Anyway, thanks for sharing this informative article as always.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I certainly agree that this is a very ugly disease. There is so much research being done, and I hope they can get the blood test out there. Early diagnosis for any disease improves the chance for recovery.

I appreciate your comments, my friend. Have a great week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Ms Dora,

Yes, I found a great deal of research, so at least there is hope. I imagine that it was difficult to watch those changes in your mother. I am sorry to hear that.

Thank you so much for your comments. I pray you have a good week.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on January 25, 2021:

Pamela, interestly article and good as a basic information. I am into my 65 birth day by December, and I realised that by eating healthy, regular exercises, and other life style that keeps the brain active, can prevent or halt the disease to some extend. Thanks for sharing.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 25, 2021:

An awful disease, as it's so difficult to diagnose and to treat. I know a few who had it and have since died. It's the one thing I'm scared of ever having, though I don't think there's been any in my family,. It seems to mean just slowly drifting away, off the planet. So hard to bear for those who are the closest to a sufferer too.

Thanks for all these details. It's good to have facts and figures to put it all in perspective. You always do that well, Pamela.

I hope you're keeping well.

Ann

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 25, 2021:

Excellent article about the Alzheimer disease. Sadly, many people are affected by it, and I haven’t seen anyone getting cured. Hopefully, something will happen in future.

Thank you for the education regarding this health condition. As always, you have shared an important and valuable article. Thank you.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 25, 2021:

Such an ugly disease. This one I know on a personal level. I wish I didn't. :( Spread the word, my friend. Many out there need this information.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 25, 2021:

Happy that the Alzheimer's research is still ongoing with good prospects. Having been the caregiver for my mother who suffered from this illness, I applaud every bit of progress. Thanks for the updates.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi MG,

There is no cure. Those who have the disease in there family are at a higher risk, so there may be a genetic component.

I think diet could be a factor, or why is the estimate so high for future casses? I sure don't know what the future holds for curing this disease.

Thank you very much for your comments. Have a great week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Ruby,

You certainly know how awful this disease is since you worked in the Alzhemer's unit. There has been so much research, and while there is no cure, there are some treatments. I am happy there is no Alzheimer's disease in my family too.

I appreciate your comments. Have a good week!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 25, 2021:

This is one disease I have read something about but reading your article gives me a new vision about the disease. Is there any way this disease can be halted? I have a feeling that in case man remains vegetarian there is a possibility that the disease may not incubate.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 25, 2021:

This was very interesting. Thankfully there is no Alzheimer disease in my family. I worked in an Alzheimer unit and saw up close how devastating this is. It's good to know there are new meds. and new research.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi E Randall,

I did not know about the aluminum, so I am glad I don't have any aluminum cookware, but we do use aluminum foil. LOL

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I hope you have a good week.

E Randall from United States on January 25, 2021:

Great article, this is truly a sad disease that affects so many people. I remember reading somewhere that some researchers were saying that aluminum was also a cause. Trace amounts were found in the brains of many who had the disease. They were linking it to cookware and antiperspirants. Thanks for writing this.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:

Hi Liz,

It is a very debiltating disease, and I'm glad you found this articlee informative. I appreciate your comments, Liz, as always.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 25, 2021:

This is very helpful and informative article. Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease. It is good that more is known about it now. I hope that, in time, a cure might be found.