Saturday, 22 April 2017



 What is Alzheimer’s disease?

 Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that affects the human brain, leading to memory loss, disorientation, behaviour changes, and difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and walking.
Alzheimer's is the most prevalent form of dementia. Alzheimer's disease responsible for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. The disease got its name from a German physician named Alois Alzheimer who diagnosed a 51-year-old woman of a rare brain disorder in the year 1906. The brain autopsy performed on the patient identified the plaques and tangles that are now known to occur in the brain of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
   The human brain is one of the largest and complicated organs in the body. It is known as the root of human intelligence, and processor of information. Aside from processing information, the human brain also processes emotions and thoughts. The brain weighs about 1.5 kilograms, and contains numerous nerve cells which connect the parts of the brain together and ensure that they function perfectly. There are four main sections of the brain, they include; the cerebrum (which is divided into the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, and the occipital lobe), the cerebellum, the limbic system, and the brain stem. However, the brain itself is divided into the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain.

Learn more: How does Alzheimer’s affect the Brain? (pathology of Alzheimer's disease)  Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Treatment of Alzheimer disease, alternative (herbal) therapy for Alzheimer disease

Functions of the Four Sections of the Brain
   The cerebrum is found in the anterior part of the brain. This section contains two hemispheres known as the left and the right hemispheres. The main function of the cerebrum is to control movement, and to process information that you obtain through your sense organs (eyes, nose, and skin). The two hemispheres in the cerebrum have different functions. The left hemisphere is concerned with speech and language, while the right one is concerned with spatial information and imagery.
   The limbic system is sometimes called ‘the emotional brain’ because it controls our emotional response. The four different sections that make up the limbic system are the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, and the hippocampus. Sensory information from the skin, eyes, and ears are transported to the cerebrum by the thalamus. The hypothalamus on the other hand, controls sleep, hunger and thirst. The amygdala is associated with fear, memory and emotion. It is located under the front and medial section of the temporal lobe. Finally, the hippocampus builds our memory. It is the part of the brain that converts short term memory to permanent ones. It is located in the basal medial section of the temporal lobe.
   The brain stem transports information through the brain, the cerebellum, and the spinal cord. It also regulates eye movements, facial expressions, heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. Finally, the cerebellum makes up the hindbrain. It is responsible for movement and balance.
What Causes Alzheimer’s disease?
   Now that we know the parts of the brain and how they function, we can go ahead to find out the cause of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease occurs when the cells of the brains are affected. The brain cells are mostly affected by two substances called the neuritic plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Neuritic plaques are mostly found in the brain of aged men and women, but they are numerous in the brain cells of people suffering from Alzheimer’s. They are abnormal clusters of sticky proteins that build up between nerve cells. They block the cell-to-cell communication, and may also cause inflammation by triggering immune response. Neurofibrillary tangles on the other hand, are parts of a protein called ‘tau’ which promotes good cell structure and function. 
Tangles are found in dying cells. In healthy cells, tau regulates the cell-to-cell transport system, but in dead cells (where tangles form), tau destroys the transport system, hindering nutrients and other essential substances from entering the cells. With time, the cells eventually die off. As the cells continue to die off one after the other, the brain starts to shrink and reduce in size, and function. Most part of the brain soon degenerate, leaving the patient with little or no control over his or her life.
 In most people, plaques and tangles develop with increase in age, however, it is more pronounced in patients with Alzheimer’s. The plaques and tangles start forming in the area of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory, and then spreads to other regions. Alzheimer’s causes changes in the brain long before the first symptoms appear. So, even those who seem to be free of the disease may be at risk.
What are the risk factor for Alzheimer disease?
Increase in age (ageing) is a major risk factor for Alzheimer disease (the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 and older), however, Alzheimer's is not just a disease of old age. About 200,000 Americans below the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s). 

 Aside from ageing, other risk factors for Alzheimer’s include;

Some risk factors such as high cholesterol levels can be controlled, while others such as ageing and genetics cannot. In the case of genetics, people who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are more likely to get the disease. This is because Alzheimer’s is caused by mutations in one of three known genes inherited from a parent. The gene is called ‘Apolipoprotein E’ (APOE). This gene has three forms (Ɛ2, Ɛ3, and Ɛ4), out of these three, Ɛ4 increases a person’s risk of getting the disease. Ɛ4 is present in a small fragment of the population. Having the gene does not mean that developing the disease is inevitable. Also, studies have found that those who do not have the gene can still develop the disease. So, the gene is not a final statement on its own. It only increases the risk of developing the disease. Just like any other disease, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s can be reduced by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, especially in the area of feeding and nutrition.

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