9 April 2018
Alzheimer’s: Causes and Prevention
Alzheimer’s disease has slowly been climbing the ladder to the number one leading cause of death across the globe. Alzheimer’s is currently number six putting it amongst the top ten deadliest diseases. The climbing numbers have begun putting health professionals on high alert. The high numbers have even began sparking the interest of teens and young adults. This disease could be affecting their loved ones such as great-grandparents, grandparents, or maybe even their parents. But why is Alzheimer’s not being talked about?
Alzheimer’s disease can seem hard to think about when we don’t understand the possible causes, possible prevention, and what Alzheimer’s really is. But finding the correct, easy to understand information about the disease can seem difficult when most studies are written in medical or scientific journals mainly meant for professional’s eyes. Linda Lu, James Ellison, and Markus MacGill really break down the aspect of this life-threatening disease while also giving different perspectives by using other research techniques and new advancements. The similarities and differences they present shed light on some shocking causes of Alzheimer’s disease and possible prevention techniques in easy to understand content.
The first perspective is from Linda C Lu’s book Alzheimer’s Disease, released in 2011. Lu explains that Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease of the brain that leads to loss of memory and most times mental abilities. In some instances, loss of physical abilities begins after some time. The changes can affect the daily lives of the elderly making normal day to day tasks increasingly difficult. Lu gives several examples of how the loss of memory and physical abilities create difficult situations for the diseased such as,
” How do you brush your teeth if you cannot remember how to use a toothbrush? What happens if you put on a t-shirt because you forget it is winter and snowing outside? How do you use a fork and knife if you cannot remember what they are? What happens if you scramble eggs for breakfast and forget to turn off the stove? How do you drive to work if you do not remember the directions? (Lu, 2) ”
But Alzheimer’s disease is more than that. Not only does it cause people to lose their memory but damages parts of the brain. The disease seems to progress in stages the first being the loss of the memory center. It moves on and then begins affecting the speech, vision, thinking abilities, and reasoning.
Even though Alzheimer’s disease wreaks havoc on the brain and has been for some time, medical researchers cannot pinpoint the exact cause. Many risk factors over time can play a huge part in the so-called causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Lu begins by breaking down the several possible causes of Alzheimer’s known to her in 2011. The first possibility she gives is heredity. Lu explains that heredity is more of a yes and no possibility. The disease is not directly passed down from generation to generation but the risk of developing the disease increases if there is a family history of it. The second, most obvious probable cause is age (Lu, 16). Alzheimer’s begins developing at the age of sixty-five and chances of developing the disease double every five years after sixty-five. The third probable cause is head injuries such as concussions. Traumatic brain injuries occur when the brain is violently moved around the skull. The movement damages blood vessels, nerve tissue, and can affect cognitive abilities. Traumatic brain injuries are most common in high contact sports such as boxing, football, and pro-wrestling. But Lu states that research was currently being done about how frequently people with traumatic brain injuries go on to develop Alzheimer’s. The research is leading to a high amount of data suggesting that traumatic brain injuries can be a risk factor, but the process is not completely understood (Lu 17).
The second perspective comes from James Ellison’s short article titled Possible Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease. Ellison never gave his description of what he believed the definition of Alzheimer’s is unlike Lu. He jumped right into the causes listing number one as senile plaques. Amyloid plaques are known as senile plaques when found in the brain. Amyloids are starch like proteins but can sometimes fold over causing them to stick together becoming amyloid plaques and can be the root of many diseases (Ellison 1). Ellison says that brain injuries trigger the formation of amyloid plaques making them more of an effect instead of a cause. The second probability he listed was tangles. Neurofibrillary tangles show a problem with a protein called Tau. Tau is a microscopic component of brain cells that are needed for survival (Ellison 1). The spreading of these chemically altered proteins follow a temporal pattern different from normal healthy tau proteins. Ellison says that research is still being conducted on how these infected proteins can spread almost like infections, but the importance of this information is still being investigated. The third and final probable cause he gives is head injuries. He says that major head injuries result in the appearance of plaques and tangles. It also causes many of them to have some cognitive impairments such as stuttering, blurry vision, and short periods of memory loss. However, Alzheimer’s develops in many elderlies who have not sustain previous head injuries making it hard to determine if it could be a sole cause (Ellison 1).
Ellison finally brings possible prevention to the end of his article. He says Alzheimer’s can be viewed as a type of brain destruction with no cure yet found. Promoting brain health could lower the possibilities of Alzheimer disease or maybe lessen the impact. One way to promote brain health is managing medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea (Ellison 1). He also says aerobic exercise is the most important thing for a brain healthy lifestyle. It supports healthy blood flow, energy, metabolism, cholesterol control, and a healthy immune system. Three to five days a week doing moderate aerobic exercises can put most people on the track to a healthy brain (Ellison 1). But along with exercise is a good diet. Brain healthy diets include fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lots of fiber. An example of this kind of diet is called a Mediterranean diet.
Lastly, we have Markus MacGill’s point of view with his article titled What’s To Know About Alzheimer’s Disease. MacGill gets straight to the point describing Alzheimer’s as a neurological disorder that kills brain cells and causes memory loss along with major cognitive declines. In 2018, five million people have Alzheimer’s. He predicts by 2050 that number is expected to double! Symptoms of Alzheimer’s includes, reduced ability to remember new information, impairments to reasoning, inability to recognize faces or common objects, and changed in behavior ranging from slight changes to extreme (MacGill 1). Treatment for these symptoms is unknown due to not being able to repair damaged brain cells. But there are ways to make their lives easier. These include management of preexisting medical conditions, support groups, therapy, and daily brain challenging activities (MacGill 1).
MacGill closes off his article with the causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s. He says people with Alzheimer’s have fewer and fewer nerve cells and connection. Nerve cells in the brain begin deteriorating and are replaced with tiny deposits of plaque but researchers do not fully understand why this occurs (MacGill 1). They believe many risk factors over time could lead to the disease. MacGill broke the top risk factors down into two groups, unavoidable and modifiable. Unavoidable risk factors listed are aging, family history, and certain genes. Modifiable risk factors were listed as regular exercise, maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, managing preexisting diseases, healthy diets, and lifelong brain training (MacGill 1).
All three pieces presented similar information about Alzheimer’s disease, yet they seem to build on each other as time passes. The first piece is from 2011, the second from 2016, and the last one from 2018 giving us a perspective from different times. But since not as many advancements have been made in the field over the years the content seemed repeated but then added extra material building from the previous pieces. Each author broke the information down enough to be understandable to the public in hopes of raising awareness about the increasing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and how much research isn’t happening. There is no current cure for the disease or no real prevention. This lack of information is astounding knowing that five million people currently have the disease.
Ellison, James M. “Possible Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.”
BrightFocus, 27 March 2016
Lu, Linda C. Alzheimer’s Disease.
Santa Barbara, California. 2011
MacGill, Markus. “What’s to Know about Alzheimer’s Disease?” Edited by Timothy J Legg.
Medical News Today, 13 Feb. 2018. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/159442.php.