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Alzheimer’s, A Disease You Will Not Forget

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Hello. My name is Kristin Griffis, and I am the mother of two beautiful young daughters and a wife of an amazing husband. I have an ordinary life as you would say, but I have taken a step past that recently with my career. I am currently enrolled in schooling to become a Midwife, so learning all about the human body is my number one asset. I want to talk to you guys today about the brain disease Alzheimer’s. The reason I chose this disease was because my Grandmother in-law has suffered from this disease and I want to shed needed light upon it.

The brain disease, Alzheimer’s, is a very serious medical disorder (to disturb the regular function) that, according to Timothy J. Legg, PHD, ‘In 2013, 6.8 million people in the U.S. had been diagnosed with dementia (progressive condition that is marked by the development of multiple cognitive deficits). Of those 5 million had a diagnosis(act of identifying a disease) of Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the numbers are expected to double’ This disease affects many people, and even more families than we may know. I am sure a handful of you in this room may be able to raise your hand and tell me them name of somebody you know or has affected you in any way, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a disorder that causes the brain cells (cell in the tissue of the brain) in a person to degenerate (chemical changes in the brain tissue) and waste away, which in turn leads to rapidly decreasing brain function. Some early warning signs include forgetting recent events, difficulty reasoning, and having trouble recognizing people they know. It eventually progresses to the point where the person needs full-time assistance.

The main stages of this disorder are number one- Preclinical (pertaining to the stage before getting medical help), before symptoms (evident of a disease) occur. Preclinical is hard to diagnose due to the fact that most of us Americans deal with a certain amount of memory loss or impaired judgement, so a doctor would have trouble diagnosing someone when it could just be human error. Two- Mild Cognitive Impairment (causing a small but noticeable decline in cognitive behavior), or MCI ‘…when symptoms are greater than what would be expected for a person’s age but does not prevent a person from functioning in social or work environments.’ Mayo Clinic, And three- Dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a preventable condition. However, a number of lifestyle risk-factors for this can be modified. Studies show that a link in a healthy cardio-vascular system (pertaining to the heart and blood vessels) may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other disorders that cause dementia. Choosing Heart-healthy lifestyle choices may reduce the risk, which include but are not limited to 1- Exercise regularly, 2- Eat a diet of fresh produce, healthy oils and foods low in saturated fat, and 3- Follow treatment guidelines to manage high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

People with a history of severe head trauma (injury to the scalp, skull or brain) have a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s, more-so if the head trauma is severe. Researchers are showing that people with poor sleeping habits (Difficulty falling asleep, getting enough sleep and trouble staying asleep) can raise the risk of Alzheimer’s. The highest risk factor of this disorder is aging. As a person ages, our natural progression and function of the brain will slow down, which can lead to poor brain function. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, but the older you get, the higher the risk factor may be. According to Mayo Clinic, ‘Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s is somewhat higher if a first-degree relative – your parent or sibling – has the disease. There is no proof that it is hereditary (determined by genetic factors), but due to the lack of knowledge on this subject, it cannot be labeled as.

For Alzheimer’s, there is no single test a doctor can run. Doctors have to run multiple tests looking for symptoms, review medical history and other cancel out any other medical conditions to rule out first. The next step would be running a neurological function test (condition where patients experience neurological symptoms), which tests balance, reflexes, and senses. Further testing to be run may be a blood and urine test.

There are Brain Screenings. For some examples, CT (Computed Tomography a specialized X-ray technology, produces cross-sectional images (slices) of your brain.), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of the brain, used primarily to rule out other conditions.) and a psychologist (a specialist in psychology) (the science dealing with the mind and mental process). Once those tests have been performed, to double check the diagnosis, the patient may be put through cognitive assessments (is an assessment of thinking, reasoning and remembering), and be asked a series of questions. The questions test common knowledge, for example, ‘What is your name? How old are you? What year are we in? Further questions look into the patient’s well-being, looking for impairment (to weaken or make worse) in decision making, and managing finances. Doctors then may look for visual issues, such as not being able to recognize faces and common objects, finding impairment in speech, and the ability to read and write. They Look for differences in behavior such as loss of empathy or obsessive, compulsive, or socially unacceptable behaviors. Looking for personality disorders may include social withdrawal, loss of motivation and out-of-character mood swings.

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s has no known cure. Once the brain cells die, there is not reversal. There are interventions that people may incorporate into their lives to live with the disease. Some interventions include daycare programs, support groups, and services offered. Since there is no known cure, patients can look into pharmaceutical drugs to help improve the quality of life and reduce symptoms. Some of the drugs used are cholinesterase inhibitors, such as Donepezil, Rivastigmine, and Tacrine. Another kind of drug is Mematine, which is a NMDA receptor antagonist. This can be used alone or combined with the cholinesterase inhibitor (these drugs work by boosting levels of cell-to-cell communication by preserving a chemical messenger that is depleted in the brain)

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