In general, dementia is defined as a category of brain conditions that cause the individual to gradually lose his or her ability to effectively communicate and think properly (Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017, p. 1). Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and affects approximately one out of every eight Americans over the age of 65 (A.
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W. Lerner, & A. C. Lerner, 2009, p. 15). As the years progress, more treatments are being found, and researchers are hopeful that a cure will be found one day. While focusing on the several aspects and struggles that an Alzheimer’s patient experiences both past and future, possible treatment plans and cures can also be evaluated.
While many aspects of Alzheimer’s disease exist, many statistics have been gathered by researchers in the United States about this disease. In general, dementia is defined as a category of brain conditions that cause individuals to gradually lose their abilities to effectively communicate and think properly (Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017, p. 1). It is the fifth leading cause of death for elderly individuals over the age of 65 in the United States, and in 2007, it was estimated that about 5.1 million people were living with Alzheimer’s disease (A. W. Lerner, & A. C. Lerner, 2009, p. 15). Alzheimer’s was named after a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer because he first detailed the characteristics of the disease in 1906 (A. W. Lerner, & A. C. Lerner, 2009, p. 15)(Perry, 2006, p. 6). Alzheimer’s didn’t receive a lot of attention until Emil Kraepelin released his book called Textbook of Psychiatry in 1910, so he is also commonly thought of as its cofounder (Perry, 2006, p. 410). It was officially recognized as a disease in the 1970’s (Lock, 2013, p. 49).
Some risk factors make certain types of people more susceptible to the development of Alzheimer’s than others. In general, the older an individual is, the more likely they are to experience Alzheimer’s disease (A. W. Lerner, & A. C. Lerner, 2009, p. 49). In fact, each decade after age 65, the risk for Alzheimer’s disease doubles for the general population (Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017, p. 4). Another risk factor is the presence of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease because these conditions can lead to damaged blood vessels which can lead to Alzheimer’s (New Hope for Alzheimer’s, 2013, p. 2). Other individuals at risk include those who’ve experienced a head injury, those who are considered to be obese, and those who smoke (Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017, p. 6). A well-known fact is that if an individual’s parent or sibling has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, then the individual’s chance of also developing this disease increases depending on the specific case (p. 5). A gene called APOE is linked with late-onset Alzheimer’s which is categorized as any form of this disease found after age 65 (Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet, 2016, p. 4). Several forms of this gene exist, and one of them is known as APOE e4 which increases the likelihood that the individual carrying the gene will experience early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is diagnosed between one’s 30’s to early 60’s. Many Down Syndrome individuals also develop Alzheimer’s because they have an extra twenty-first chromosome, which is the same gene that creates substances called amyloid plaques which then form the basis for Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet, 2016, p. 4).
Alzheimer’s disease can’t be prevented altogether, but certain methods may help some individuals reduce their risk of developing this disease. One way to hopefully prevent the disease is by engaging in aerobic exercise because it improves people’s ability to effectively complete tasks which involve thinking and analyzing (Setti, Hunsberger, & Reed, 2017, p. 351). One study supporting this assertion is one in which older rodents were allowed to run on an exercise wheel, and it was discovered that those that exercised, experienced an increase in neuron production compared to the rodents that didn’t. Another method known as the Mediterranean diet has been discovered to lower the risk of cardiovascular issues and Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017, p. 7). The Mediterranean diet is beneficial because it helps individuals increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies which support the upkeep of cell membranes and overall brain activity (Setti, Hunsberger, & Reed, 2017, p. 352). This diet includes: fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, nuts, and many other foods similar to the ones listed (Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017, p. 7). Lastly, in order for an individual to prevent or slow down the progression of this disease, one must maintain a consistent and healthy environment with caregivers who know the specialized communication techniques needed for these unique patients (L. Walsh, personal interview, April 2, 2018).
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