Alzheimer's Disease & Memory

When humans age, their normal body functions tend to become slower and weaker. Cells are unable to repair themselves as quickly than before. Older people experience more stress, fatigue, and are more likely to develop other diseases. At present, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the conditions that put aging persons at risk.

Alzheimer's Disease Statistics

Dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease is perhaps the greatest health great threat to memory functioning in old age. It constitutes about one-half of dementia cases and affects perhaps ten percent of people over age sixty five, although estimates of incidence vary widely. According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of America, there is an estimated 5 million men and women who are afflicted with the disease. Almost every minute, someone develops the condition.

Alzheimer's Disease Facts

Older adults are cognizant of the increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in old age. Fear of Alzheimer’s is probably responsible for the recent large increase in the number of older adults requesting neuropsychological evaluation of their memories. No doubt adding to the worry about Alzheimer’s disease is the fact that the early symptoms bear some similarity to cognitive changes associated with normal aging, namely declines in new learning and in word finding.

Identification of memory changes that deviate from normal aging is essential for several reasons. First, understanding the extent of normal age changes will enable older adults to seek treatment for pathological changes. And twenty to thirty percent of people referred for memory evaluation have a reversible dementia that can be effectively treated. Although Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible, accurate diagnosis is necessary for development of an appropriate care plan. Finally, Alzheimer's disease research must identify the boundary between producing normal cognitive change in old age.

Effects of Alzheimer's Disease

What exactly happens to a person with this disease? Taking a closer look at the human brain, one can see that it is composed of millions of nerves and billions of cells. The body’s normal mechanism allows it to produce new brain cells to replace old ones or damaged ones. But as a person develops Alzheimer’s disease, his brain cells are unable to regenerate. As seen by the discoverer of this disease, Dr. Alois Alzheimer, his patient’s brain greatly reduced in size. Prior to the death of the patient, she was having memory loss and difficulty in understanding and speaking.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

There are many symptoms that can help someone determine the occurrence of Alzheimer’s.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a doctor may give the patient simple test or ask him basic questions. If the patient has trouble concentrating or is unable to quickly understand what is being said, he or she may be at the early onset of the condition. A person who is beginning to show signs of memory loss may forget the names of places that used to be very familiar to him. Also, he may have trouble remembering the names of persons he already knew. Some sources even say that although misplacing an item and not knowing where to look is a form of mild memory loss, it may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

Early Signs of Alzheimer's Disease include deficits in everyday memory tasks such as remembering one’s own telephone number or postal code, or the names of close relatives and friends. The largest differences between normal older adults and adults with early Alzheimer’s disease involve new learning, such as recall of stories, paragraphs or paired associates, as well as memory for well known information such as the meaning of vocabulary words. Thus, adults with early stage Alzheimer’s disease show memory deficits that are not characteristic of normal aging for instance, their decreased recall of old information such as the meaning of words on vocabulary tests. However, both normal older adults and people with Alzheimer's disease show declines relative to young adults in memory for well known names and for new information, although the extent of the decline differs very significantly between the two older groups.

In more progressed stages of the condition, some persons may have trouble doing everyday things, and may often require assistance. He or she may find trouble falling asleep, irritable, confused, and disoriented. Cognitive ability may change, and the patient may have difficulty in speaking, simple math, and judgment. There are also cases of patients who have developed dementia, delusions, and paranoia.

Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease

Memory declines with normal aging are not uniform across all functions, but rather some aspects of memory are impaired while others are spared. Focus on two of the most prominent memory changes in old age: namely, decline in new learning, and increased word-finding problems. Normal older adults describe memory declines as irksome, but there is little evidence that these changes significantly impair their ability to function in everyday like. Indeed, pathological memory changes in Alzheimer’s disease affect these same functions but are indicated by a magnitude of decline that is noticeable to family and friends and that interferes with everyday activities.

The transmission deficit hypothesis postulates an age related deficit in a cognitive mechanism involved in both the retrieval of existing knowledge and the creation of new knowledge namely, the transmission of priming among memory representations. Thus, this hypothesis provides a means of integrating age declines in the seemingly disparate memory functions of new learning and word finding. One of the problems for non-cognitive explanations of memory declines in old age is that they are unable to account for the involvement of specific memory functions and not others.

Alzheimer's Disease Treatments

Since there is no definite cure for Alzheimer’s disease as of this date, there are methods by which the symptoms are lessened. Some of the Alzheimer's disease drugs used are memantine and cholinesterase inhibitors. There are also different types of Alzheimer's disease medications to help the person sleep. As a way of dealing with the disease, family members are also advised to change the environment of the patient, to better relax him and make living with Alzheimer's disease easier.

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