The Risk for Alzheimer’s disease, in Our Control or Not?

alzheimer generation

There are certain risk factors, such as family history, genetics, and age that are beyond our control, but there are some that can be mitigated with early intervention and maintenance. Let us examine the two sets of risk factors to better understand how we can take action to defend ourselves or loved ones from this devastating disease.

Risk factors that we cannot change are:

1. Age

The data shows us that age is a significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s, but we do not fully understand why. Among those aged 85 or older, one in three were found to have the disease. Compare this to one in nine among those aged 65 or beyond.

2. Family history

Family history is a good predicator for many health conditions. If one of your parents or siblings has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s your chance for developing the disease is increased.

3. Genetics

Scientific study has found that genes play an integral part in Alzheimer’s. Genes that have a causal role in the disease fall into two categories: deterministic genes and risk genes. Let’s look at each type.
• Deterministic genes are the direct cause of developing a disease. Scientists have found three proteins where the genetic coding is deviant: presenilin-1 (PS-1), amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilin-2 (PS-2). Autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD) is the name given to Alzheimer’s when one of these deterministic genes is the cause. It could impact several generations within a family and the symptoms usually appear before the patient reaches the age of 60. However, deterministic genes are found in a very few hundreds of families throughout the world.
• Risk genes may be present, but it does not mean that Alzheimer’s is guaranteed to develop. To date, several risk genes have been discovered by Alzheimer’s researchers: apolipoprotein E-e4 appears to have the greatest influence on developing the disease. The gene is present in approximately 20-25% of Alzheimer’s cases. There are two other configurations of the APOE gene, the other two being APOE-e2 and APOE-e3. It is important to remember that even if the gene is inherited from both parents, it does not mean that it is guaranteed you will develop Alzheimer’s. The APOE-e4 gene also seems to be responsible for earlier onset of Alzheimer’s.

alzheimers disease with two trees

Risk factors that we can impact:

There is nothing we can do to change our genetic makeup or family medical histories. What are some of the factors we can change?

1. Healthy aging

We cannot control the reality of aging, but we can impact how we age. There are many strategies to keep both our bodies and minds as young as possible. For instance diet, social interaction and exercising both your body and mind. There are many mind exercises available in bookstores, on the internet, or through Alzheimer’s websites.

2. Head injury

Scientists believe there may be a link between head trauma and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This is especially true should there be repeated episodes of serious injury to the head. Be careful to always wear a helmet when biking, buckle up no matter how far you are going in your car and install safe surfaces around your home to avoid slipping and falling.

3. Healthy heart, healthy brain

Studies have proven that the health of your heart impacts the health of your brain. Your brain receives vital nutrients through the blood vessels. Should there be any blockages or complications within the vast network of your blood vessels, such as from high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease, the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain will be severely diminished, resulting in damage to the brain’s vessels, and increasing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. If you have any of these conditions it is very important to maintain a regular check-up schedule.

The Risk for Alzheimer’s disease, in Our Control or Not?

There are certain risk factors, such as family history, genetics, and age that are beyond our control, but there are some that can be mitigated with early intervention and maintenance. Let us examine the two sets of risk factors to better understand how we can take action to defend ourselves or loved ones from this devastating disease.

 alzheimer

 Risk factors that we cannot change are:

1. Age
The data shows us that age is a significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s, but we do not fully understand why. Among those aged 85 or older, one in three were found to have the disease. Compare this to one in nine among those aged 65 or beyond.
2. Family history
Family history is a good predicator for many health conditions. If one of your parents or siblings has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s your chance for developing the disease is increased.
3. Genetics
Scientific study has found that genes play an integral part in Alzheimer’s. Genes that have a causal role in the disease fall into two categories: deterministic genes and risk genes. Let’s look at each type.
• Deterministic genes are the direct cause of developing a disease. Scientists have found three proteins where the genetic coding is deviant: presenilin-1 (PS-1), amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilin-2 (PS-2). Autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD) is the name given to Alzheimer’s when one of these deterministic genes is the cause. It could impact several generations within a family and the symptoms usually appear before the patient reaches the age of 60. However, deterministic genes are found in a very few hundreds of families throughout the world.
• Risk genes may be present, but it does not mean that Alzheimer’s is guaranteed to develop. To date, several risk genes have been discovered by Alzheimer’s researchers: apolipoprotein E-e4 appears to have the greatest influence on developing the disease. The gene is present in approximately 20-25% of Alzheimer’s cases. There are two other configurations of the APOE gene, the other two being APOE-e2 and APOE-e3. It is important to remember that even if the gene is inherited from both parents, it does not mean that it is guaranteed you will develop Alzheimer’s. The APOE-e4 gene also seems to be responsible for earlier onset of Alzheimer’s.

Healthy aging

Risk factors that we can impact:

There is nothing we can do to change our genetic makeup or family medical histories. What are some of the factors we can change?

1. Healthy aging
We cannot control the reality of aging, but we can impact how we age. There are many strategies to keep both our bodies and minds as young as possible. For instance diet, social interaction and exercising both your body and mind. There are many mind exercises available in bookstores, on the internet, or through Alzheimer’s websites.
2. Head injury
Scientists believe there may be a link between head trauma and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This is especially true should there be repeated episodes of serious injury to the head. Be careful to always wear a helmet when biking, buckle up no matter how far you are going in your car and install safe surfaces around your home to avoid slipping and falling.
3. Healthy heart, healthy brain
Studies have proven that the health of your heart impacts the health of your brain. Your brain receives vital nutrients through the blood vessels. Should there be any blockages or complications within the vast network of your blood vessels, such as from high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease, the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain will be severely diminished, resulting in damage to the brain’s vessels, and increasing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. If you have any of these conditions it is very important to maintain a regular check-up schedule.

The Truth about Alzheimer’s

the truth about alzheimer

 

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disease. It is the most common form of dementia, whereby the brain cells degenerate, leading to loss of memory and other cognitive skills. Many of the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are overlooked due to misinformation about the normal process of aging. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear someone associate their age with their inability to remember things. Unfortunately, this leads to the loss of vital time that could be used to begin treatment protocols that can slow down the progression of the disease.

Here are some common myths about Alzheimer’s.

1. Alzheimer’s disease will not kill you. Actually, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. But beyond this, Alzheimer’s robs a person of all the elements of life, even if they are still breathing. Memory loss, loss of motor abilities, severe cognitive dysfunction, eating disorders, loss of ability to connect to others, all of these drastically reduce quality of life.

2. There are drugs today to prevent or stop Alzheimer’s. Not true. Considerable research is going into developing drug protocols, but at this time, FDA-approved therapies can, at the most, delay worsening of symptoms for up to a year. They have proven to be effective for approximately half of the patients subscribed.
3. Only old people get Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a neurological disease that is not restricted to age. People as young as 30 can exhibit symptoms of early stage Alzheimer’s. In fact of the estimated 5 million people in America with Alzheimer’s, 200,000 are under the age of 65.

4. Poor memory is a part of aging. It is true that as a person grows older, it CAN become more challenging to remember things, such as a person’s name, or the name of some city you once visited. In fact, these days, all of us struggle with recall due a vast amount of information overload. For a person with Alzheimer’s this inability to remember is much more pronounced and serious. With Alzheimer’s the brain cells that control memory slowly die, causing the patient to forget even his or her closest family members. They can become lost on the way home, forgetting a route taken for decades. It is very important to distinguish the type of memory loss you or a loved one may be experiencing as soon as possible through consultation with a qualified healthcare practitioner so that appropriate measures can be taken as quickly as possible.

grandmother
5. Artificial sweeteners cause Alzheimer’s. Aspartame, commonly known as Equal or Nutrasweet, have been the subject of many health concerns. However, in spite of hundreds of clinical trials and laboratory tests, no concrete evidence has emerged to link aspartame to Alzheimer’s.

6. Risk to Alzheimer’s is increased if you have silver dental fillings. The silver used in dental fillings contains about 50% mercury. Mercury can be toxic to organs and brain cells. Therefore, some have expressed a correlation between the presence of silver fillings and Alzheimer’s disease. But, to date there has been no proof of a link, in spite of substantial research into the matter undertaken by top research universities and national health institutions.

7. Aluminum can cause Alzheimer’s. A few decades ago, some thought there might be a connection between cooking in aluminum pots or drinking from aluminum cans and the onset of Alzheimer’s. But, like the dental fillings, no study was able to prove aluminum to be a causative factor in developing Alzheimer’s.

8. You can develop Alzheimer’s from flu shots. While there is some evidence to suggest that flu shots can cause certain ailments, there is no proof that the shot causes Alzheimer’s. In fact, two studies, one out of Canada in 2001 and the second reported in JAMA in 2004 suggest that being vaccinated against the flu may actually lower the risk to developing Alzheimer’s.

10 Warning Signs that You or a Loved One May be Developing Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disease that severely impairs cognitive functioning. It is the sixth leading cause of mortality in America. While there are many new and emerging treatment protocols available today, the best approach is to catch Alzheimer’s before it fully develops, when drug treatments have their greatest chance for reversing or stemming the progression of the disease.signs

Here are ten common warning signs that should alert you to the possibility that you or someone you love may be developing Alzheimer’s. If they sound familiar to you, please make an appointment to see your healthcare professional as soon as possible.

1. Confusion.

As we get older, it is not unusual to lose track of which day of the week it is, or whether we did something yesterday or the day before. However, if your confusion is more pronounced, such as not knowing where you are or how you arrived at this place, this is more symptomatic of early stages of Alzheimer’s.

2. Forgetfulness.

Memory loss also comes with aging. Perhaps you might forget someone’s name when you see them in the grocery store, but after thinking about it the name comes to you. A person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s loses their ability to recall information. This is especially true of short-term memory. They may not be able to retain new information or must rely on reminder tools, such as sticky notes or family members for even the simplest tasks, appointments, and special events. If you or your family member never had problems keeping track of a busy life in the past, then this is a good sign of Alzheimer’s.

alzheimers

3. Impaired problem-solving abilities.

With Alzheimer’s you will find that you cannot formulate a strategy for dealing with certain situations, follow simple directions, such as a recipe, or handle mathematical tasks, such as tracking your bills or balancing your checkbook.

4. Difficulties with communicating.

It is not unusual to struggle with finding the right word we want to use to get across a certain point. A person with early stages of Alzheimer’s will find it difficult to follow a conversation, to know how to join in, or will begin speaking about something, and then leave the thought unfinished.

 Alzheimer

5. Withdrawal.

If you see that someone you love is slowly withdrawing from all their favorite activities, social circles and friends, this could be an indicator of Alzheimer’s.

6. Familiar tasks become difficult.

You or your loved one may find that the tasks you routinely performed at home or at work are now difficult for you. You may forget how to drive to work or some other familiar location or how to play your favorite game.

7. Mood changes.

It is true that as we age, we can sometimes become less patient or more irritable. A person developing Alzheimer’s though will display much more pronounced changes in mood, exhibiting fear, depression, confusion, anxiety with little warning, especially when outside of their comfort zone, such as in new surroundings or around new people.

8. Impaired ability to judge situations.

A person with Alzheimer’s may fail to employ critical decision-making skills to adequately assess situations, easily falling prey to scammers and telemarketers.

9. Vision problems.

Aging can bring vision issues, especially conditions such as cataracts. Alzheimer’s can impair a person’s spatial ability, or their ability to identify colors or even to read.

10. Losing track of personal items.

If a person with Alzheimer’s loses an item, they will not have the capacity to review in their mind all the places they were earlier in order to find it. While it is not usual as we age to forget where we placed something, usually with considerable thought, we can eventually remember where we left it.

Michael Mullan’s A Journey Through the Effects of Alzheimer’s on the Brain Part-3

11 Understanding Plaques 

Plaques are formed when pieces of protein known as beta-amyloid join together. Beta-amyloid is located in larger proteins normally found within the fatty membrane around the nerve cells. 
Beta-amyloid is a sticky in a chemical sense and slowly builds up in the plaques. 
Groups of beta-amyloids of a few pieces or more could be more damaging than the actual plaques. These clumps could inhibit signalling between cells and the synapses. They could also be activating immune system cells which are triggering inflammation and devouring disabled cells. 

12 Understanding tangles 

Tangles are the cause of destruction within essential cell transport systems made up of proteins. The electron microscope images illustrates a cell with hea beta-amyloid Michael Mullanlthy areas along with zones where tangles are beginning to form. 

In the healthy area: 
The transportation system is organized in parallel strands much like railway tracks. Cell parts, food molecules and other essential materials move along these “tracks” 
Proteins called tau help the track to remain straight 
In regions where the tangles are formed: 
Tau proteins collapse into tangles – the twisted strands 
The tracks cannot stay straight, instead the disintegrate and fall apart 
Nutrients and other important supplies cannot move between the cells so they eventually die. 

13 How it Progresses through the brain 

cortex

 

 

 

 

 

Tangles and plaques (indicated by the blue areas) are typically spread throughout the cortex in a fairly predictable pattern as the progression of Alzheimer’s sets in. 

Progression rates vary greatly with some people living an average of just eight years, while others can live for as much as 20 years. The progression rates depend on various factors, including the age when the person is diagnosed and also if they have other existing health problems. 

Early Alzheimer’s – changes could occur anywhere up to 20 years prior to diagnosis. 
Mild Alzheimer’s – in general lasts between two to 10 years. 
Severe Alzheimer’s – can last between one to five years. 

14 Alzheimer’s in its Earliest Stages 

In the earliest Alzheimer’s stages, prior to symptoms being detected with current testing, tangles and plaques start to form in areas of the brain associated with: 

Memory and learning 
Planning and thinking 

15 Mild Alzheimer’s 

In the mild to moderate period, the areas of the brain essential for thinking, planning and memory develop more tangles and plaques than were evident in the early stages. Due to this, individuals can develop problems with thinking and memory that are severe enough to create issues with their normal social and work life. The can become confused and have issues with handling money, collecting their thoughts and expressing themselves. Many people that have Alzheimer’s are initially diagnosed in this stage. 

Tangles and plaques can also spread into areas associated with: 

Speech and interpreting speech 
Your sense of spatial awareness 

As the disease progresses, people can experience a change in behavior and personality while they can also have issues recognizing family members or friends. 

16 Alzheimer’s in severe stages 

Once Alzheimer’s is advanced the majority of the cortex is damaged significantly. The brain size shrinks a great deal following widespread cell death. People with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to recognize their family and friends, the ability to communicate and to take care of themselves.

Read previous chapters Here

A Journey Through the Effects of Alzheimer’s on the Brain Part 2

Michael Mullan presents the 2nd part of : A Journey Through the Effects of Alzheimer’s on the Brain

read part 1 here

6 Signaling in the cells 

Thoughts and memories travel through nerve cells as minute electrical charges. 
One nerve cell connects to another one at synapses. As the tiny electrical charge reaches the synapse, it can release a burst of chemicals, known as neurotransmitters. The function of neurotransmitters is to carry signals to the other cells across the synapse. Scientists have discovered dozens of different neurotransmitters. 
Alzheimer’s is responsible for disrupting how electrical charges can travel while it also disrupts neurotransmitter’s activity.

Nerve Cell

 

 

7. Signal coding

With billions of nerve cells and trillions of synapses the power of the brain is sourced from numbers. Your experiences form patterns in the type of signals which explain how we are defined at a cellular level as your brain codes your memories, skills, thoughts and your sense of self. 

The scan to the left is called a positron emission tomography (PET) this shows brain activity patterns that are linked to: 

Reading of words 
Hearing words 
Thoughts about words 
Speaking words 

The red areas mark high activity levels through to the other end of the rainbow scale where yellow and violet mark low activity. 
Your patterns change over the years as you have new experiences, meet different people and learn new things. Alzheimer’s changes patterns by disrupting nerve cells and the connections between them. 

8. How Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain 

Alzheimer’s causes the brain to shrink over time, killing nerve cells and leading to tissue loss. The effects are widespread. 

A normal disease free brain 
The brain with advanced Alzheimer’s 
A comparison of the two 

Alzheimers  Brain

 

 

9. Further changes in the brain 

This is another dramatic view of the massive effects on the brain of advanced Alzheimer’s. The image is a crosswise slice of the brain. 
On the Alzheimer’s side: 
The cortex is shriveled, affecting the thought, planning and memory areas. 
The hippocampus is especially smaller than other areas, this part of the cortex controls new memory formation. 
The spaces in the brain, called ventricles, grow bigger 

10. Beneath the Microscope 

When viewed through the microscope scientists are able to see the devastating effects of the disease:

Alzheimer’s brain tissue has much less nerve cells and also synapses than a normal brain 
Build up of protein fragments called plaques occurs between the nerve cells 
The dying and dead nerve cells have tangles twisted strands made of other proteins. 

Although scientists are not certain what leads to the death of cells and loss of tissue in a brain with Alzheimer’s, the tangles and plaques are the prime suspects. 


A Journey Through the Effects of Alzheimer’s on the Brain Part 1

Michael Mullan presents a short introduction to the brain :

1. Three pounds of power

The human brain weighs 3 pounds, however it’s the body’s most potent organ. The brain closely resembles jelly to touch.

There are three main sections:

The Cerebrum: This occupies most of the skull and is responsible for memory, problem solving, feeling, thinking and movement.
The Cerebellum: Located at the rear of the skull and beneath the cerebrum, the cerebellum handles balance and your coordination.
The Brain Stem: Is also under the cerebrum but in front of the cerebellum. It is connected with the spinal cord and is in control of your automated functions including breathing, food digestion, blood pressure and heart rate.

2.The supply line

To feed your brain the body nourishes it with networks or rich blood vessels.
Every heartbeat sends arteries with approximately one quarter of your blood up to the brain. Here 20% of the fuel and oxygen carried in the blood

The Brain- Michael Mullan

is consumed by billions of cells.
If you’re deep in thought, you could be using up to one half of the oxygen and fuel.

The vessel network consists of capillaries and veins as well as arteries.

3. The cortex: The thinking layer

The wrinkled outside layer of your brain is called the cortex and it serves some very special functions. By mapping the cortex, scientists have been able to link specific functions to certain areas of the cortex.

These include:

Interpreting sensations in the body, sounds, sights and smells.
Creating thought, solving problems and making plans.
Controlling voluntary movement.

4. Left brain and right brain

Most people are aware that the brain has left and right sides, however experts are still not exactly sure how the left and right brains differ in their functions, with these exceptions:

The left side handles movement on the opposite right side of the body
The right side conversely controls movement on the left of the body

Brain Strength-Micheal Mullan

Generally language is processed on the left

5. Neuron Forests

The true activity in your brain occurs within individual cells. The adult brain has 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons, which connect to 100 trillion other points. This incredibly dense network is called a “neuron forest”.

Thoughts, memories and feelings are a result of a signal that travels through the neuron forest.
Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for destroying neurons.