Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease

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What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an age-related, non-reversible brain disorder that develops over a period of years. Initially, people experience memory loss and confusion, which may be mistaken for the kinds of memory changes that are sometimes associated with normal aging. However, the symptoms of AD gradually lead to behavior and personality changes, a decline in cognitive abilities such as decision-making and language skills, and problems recognizing family and friends. AD ultimately leads to a severe loss of mental function. These losses are related to the worsening breakdown of the connections between certain neurons in the brain and their eventual death. AD is one of a group of disorders called dementias that are characterized by cognitive and behavioral problems. It is the most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older.

 There are three major hallmarks in the brain that are associated with the disease processes of AD.
  1. Amyloid plaques, which are made up of fragments of a protein called beta-amyloid peptide mixed with a collection of additional proteins, remnants of neurons, and bits and pieces of other nerve cells.
  2. Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), found inside neurons, are abnormal collections of a protein called tau. Normal tau is required for healthy neurons. However, in AD, tau clumps together. As a result, neurons fail to function normally and eventually die.
  3. Loss of connections between neurons responsible for memory and learning. Neurons can't survive when they lose their connections to other neurons. As neurons die throughout the brain, the affected regions begin to atrophy, or shrink. By the final stage of AD, damage is widespread and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.

Is There Any Treatment?

Currently there are no medicines that can slow the progression of AD. However, four FDA-approved medications are used to treat AD symptoms. These drugs help individuals carry out the activities of daily living by maintaining thinking, memory, or speaking skills. They can also help with some of the behavioral and personality changes associated with AD. However, they will not stop or reverse AD and appear to help individuals for only a few months to a few years. Donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Razadyne) are prescribed to treat mild to moderate AD symptoms. Donepezil was recently approved to treat severe AD as well. The newest AD medication is memantine (Namenda), which is prescribed to treat moderate to severe AD symptoms.

What is the Prognosis?

In very few families, people develop AD in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. This is known as "early onset" AD. These individuals have a mutation in one of three different inherited genes that causes the disease to begin at an earlier age. More than 90 percent of AD develops in people older than 65. This form of AD is called "late-onset" AD, and its development and pattern of damage in the brain is similar to that of early-onset AD. The course of this disease varies from person to person, as does the rate of decline. In most people with AD, symptoms first appear after age 65.

We don't yet completely understand the causes of late-onset AD, but they probably include genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Although the risk of developing AD increases with age, AD and dementia symptoms are not a part of normal aging. There are also some forms of dementia that aren't related to brain diseases such as AD, but are caused by systemic abnormalities such as metabolic syndrome, in which the combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes causes confusion and memory loss.

What Research is Being Done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) supports basic and translational research related to AD through grants to major medical institutions across the country. Current studies are investigating how the development of beta amyloid plaques damages neurons, and how abnormalities in tau proteins create the characteristic neurofibrillary tangles of AD. Other research is exploring the impact of risk factors associated with the development of AD, such as pre-existing problems with blood flow in the blood vessels of the brain. Most importantly, the NINDS supports a number of studies that are developing and testing new and novel therapies that can relieve the symptoms of AD and potentially lead to a cure.

On May 15, 2012 the Obama Administration announced the release of the National Alzheimer’s Plan. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius reaffirmed our nation’s commitment to conquering Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, with a specific goal of finding effective ways to prevent and treat the disease by 2025.

External Links

Alzheimer's Disease - American Academy of Family Physicians.
Alzheimer's Disease: Unraveling the Mystery - National Institute on Aging.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease - Alzheimer's Association
About Alzheimer's Disease: Diagnosis - National Institute on Aging
About Alzheimer's Disease: Symptoms - National Institute on Aging
ApoE (Apolipoprotein E) Genotyping - American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Diagnostic Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease: Frequently Asked Questions for the General Public - National Institute on Aging

About Alzheimer's Disease: Treatment - National Institute on Aging
Alzheimer's Disease Medications - National Institute on Aging
Alzheimer's Disease: Treatments - Alzheimer's Association
Treatments for Sleep Changes - Alzheimer's Association

About Alzheimer's Disease: Risk Factors and Prevention - National Institutes of Health
Brain Health - Alzheimer's Association
Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: What Do We Know? - National Institute on Aging

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Therapy
Alternative Treatments - Alzheimer's Association
Alzheimer's Disease and CAM - National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Music and Alzheimer's: Can It Help? - Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Alzheimer's: Making Mealtimes Easier - Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Healthy Eating - National Institute on Aging

Coping with Changes - Alzheimer's Association
Daily Care - Alzheimer's Association
Families and Friends - Alzheimer's Association
Making Choices about Everyday Care (for Families) - Family Caregiver Alliance
Taking Care of Yourself - Alzheimer's Association

Disease Management
Alzheimer's Therapeutic Activities - Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation
Alzheimer's: 7 Tips for Medical Visits - Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Diet, Exercise and Health - Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation
Stages and Behaviors - Alzheimer's Association
Sundowning: Late-Day Confusion - Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
What Happens Next? - National Institute on Aging

Specific Conditions
Early-Onset Alzheimer's - American Academy of Family Physicians
Early-Onset Alzheimer's: When Symptoms Begin Before 65 - Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Rapidly Progressing Alzheimer's: Something Else? - Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Seven Stages of Alzheimer's - Alzheimer's Association

Alzheimer's Disease - National Institute on Aging
Inside the Brain: An Interactive Tour - Alzheimer's Association
What Is Alzheimer Disease? - Dolan DNA Learning Center

Alzheimer's disease - MedlinePlus Encyclopedia
Alzheimer's Project - Alzheimer's Association
Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease - National Institute on Aging
Einstein On: Alzheimer's (1 of 3), Dr. Richard Lipton: Advances in Diagnosis & Treatment - Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Einstein On: Alzheimer's (2 of 3), Dr. Richard Lipton: Treatments for Alzheimer's - Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Einstein On: Alzheimer's (3 of 3), Dr. Richard Lipton: Testing for Alzheimer's Disease - Albert Einstein College of Medicine. 

Life and Death of a Neuron - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

CareFinder: Glossary - Alzheimer's Association

Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers - National Institute on Aging
Alzheimer's Disease Resource Locator - Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation
Find a Neurologist - American Academy of Neurology

Alzheimer's Facts and Figures - Alzheimer's Association

Alzheimer Disease - Nemours Foundation
Helping Kids Understand Alzheimer's Disease - National Institute on Aging

Talking to Kids and Teens - Alzheimer's Association

Clinical Trials Alzheimer Disease - National Institutes of Health.
Alzheimer's Association TrialMatch - Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials Database - National Institute on Aging.
Participating in Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials and Studies - National Institute on Aging.
NIH Clinical Center.
Throughout the U.S. and Worldwide.
NINDS Clinical Trials.

Alzheimer's Disease Genetics - National Institute on Aging.
Alzheimer's Genes: Are You at Risk? - Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Genetics Home Reference: Alzheimer disease - National Library of Medicine. 

Administration on Aging.
Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation.
National Institute on Aging.
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR).
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).
A Family Caregiver Alliance/ National Center on Caregiving.
Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD).
National Family Caregivers Association.
Well Spouse Association.
National Respite Network and Resource Center.
American Health Assistance Foundation.
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization /Natl. Hospice Foundation.
Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation.
Lewy Body Dementia Association.

The article "Alzheimer's Disease" Prepared by: Office of Communications and Public Liaison, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history. 

Holistic Lifestyle Community Blog Disclaimer:
Holistic Lifestyle Community Blog has provided this material for general information and education purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for or to take the place of medical advice. If you have a medical emergency call 9-1-1. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed health care professional. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Holistic Lifestyle Community Blog. Any mention in the Holistic Lifestyle Community Blog of a specific brand name is not an endorsement of the product.

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