It is natural for the human brain to deteriorate with increasing age. As the years go by, wear and tear affects how much is remembered, how quickly the brain responds and how well it analyses data. However, a degenerative brain disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease can destroy the proper functioning of the brain much more quickly and completely than the natural process of aging.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia that affects older people. It is a progressive and irreversible disorder, affecting the functioning of the brain. There is no known cause or cure, but drug and other treatment options are available. Typical symptoms of the disease include amnesia, confusion, impaired judgment, personality changes, disorientation, and loss of language skills.
Alzheimer’s disease affects about 4.5 million Americans, claiming 59,000 lives annually. As life expectancy rates increase across the world, sadly enough, Alzheimer’s is becoming more and more common.
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The average Alzheimer’s patient can expect to live for eight to ten years after the initial diagnosis. The disease was named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a doctor in Germany. Although the disease has existed for centuries, it was not identified until 1906 when, Dr. Alzheimer, performed an autopsy on the brain of an old woman who had died after several years of severe memory problems and confusion. Dr. Alzheimer noted that there were deposits outside and around her nerve cells and twisted bands of fibers inside.
These remain the conclusive signals of Alzheimer’s disease even today. When scientists examine the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, they find two kinds of abnormal structures that interfere with the communication among neurons in the brain – plaques and tangles. The plaques are spherical neuritic plaques containing protein, and fragments of cells. The tangles are neurofibrilliary tangles found inside the neurons. They disrupt brain functions and also seem to destroy neurons.