Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that causes a loss in memory. This results in dementia, loss of brain functions (thinking, remembering, and reasoning) severe enough to interfere with everyday life. When German physician, Alois Alzheimer, first described the disease in 1907, it was thought to be rare. Today, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting 10% of people 65 years old, and nearly 50% of those age 85 or older. An estimated four million Americans have Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease usually begins gradually, causing a person to forget recent events and to have difficulty performing familiar tasks. How quickly the disease advances differs from person to person, causing confusion, personality and behavior changes, and impaired judgment. Communication becomes difficult for Alzheimer’s patients. They struggle to find words, finish thoughts, or follow directions. Eventually, people with Alzheimer’s become unable to care for themselves.
Scientists still don’t know what causes the disease. Age and family history are possible risk factors for the disease. Scientists are exploring the role of genetics in the development of Alzheimer’s, studying chromosome 19. Rarer forms of the disease, which happen to people in their 30’s and 40’s, called “early-onset,” often run within families and appear to be related to chromosome 1, chromosome 14, and chromosome 21. Many researchers and physicians are coming to believe that Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, probably caused by a variety of influences.
Alzheimer’s affects both the mental health and Social health. It is mental in the way that Alzheimer’s victims can not think clearly, remember, and reason. Patience can not deal with stress. It is social health in the way that victims can not interact well with people to build satisfying relationships. They can not communicate well with family members or friends. Victim’s may forget who people are.
My grandfather Henry B. Harris was diagnosed with Alzheimers when he was about 76 he lived to be 82. During those six years he gradually forgot who members of the family were, even at times he did not remember his wife. About one year before he passed away he was in a nursing home. Knowing that my grandfather had the disease makes the likelihood that I will have it more probable. Cases where several members of a single family have had been diagnoses with Alzheimer’s disease are rare. Much more common is if a single family member is diagnosed as having probable Alzheimer’s (meaning that physicians are 80 to 90 percent certain that it is Alzheimer’s). A person’s risk of developing the disease seems to be slightly higher if a first-degree relative (brother, sister, parent) has the disease. Perhaps family members were exposed to something in the environment that caused the disease.
Everyone has forgotten where they parked the car or the name of an acquaintance at one time or another. And many healthy individuals are less able to remember certain kinds of information as they get older. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are much more severe than such simple memory lapses. Alzheimer symptoms affect communication, learning, thinking, reasoning, and can have an impact on a person’s work and social life.
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