Understanding Alzheimer’s and the Wave of Confused Old Folks

2009-06-25 | |
Last updated: 2009-06-25

Understanding How Alzheimer’s Affects The Brain

However, recently scientists have made some more significant discoveries beyond what has been known since Dr. Alois Alzheimer described as “plaques and tangles” in the brains of those who had died of Alzheimer’s. The problem, for the longest time, had been to understand whether or not the tangles of deposited proteins in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s were causing the symptoms or were a side effect. The question arises because some people with the same protein deposits don’t have the symptoms of the disease and because both drugs and vaccines that prevent the build up of the proteins in the brain only slowed progression of the disease instead of halting or reversing it.

The latest research discoveries, however, point more clearly to what is happening. It seems that the proteins deposited as a part of the disease are creating damaging chemicals, called free radicals, and being broken down in ways that affects the power plant of each nerve cell in the brain. When the cell power plant, or mitochondria, is too damaged, it produces toxic chemicals that poison the nerve cell and at the same time generates too little energy to keep the cell alive. The result is that the nerve cell dies.

This finding of a relation between Alzheimer’s disease and the cell power plant might explain why a diet high in fruits and vegetables reduces Alzheimer’s risk. All the antioxidants in these foods are known to reduce the free radicals in the body so they may offer enough protection to the mitochondria to keep it running properly.

Also of importance with this latest information is knowing that while the drugs that stop the deposit of the proteins in the brain cell are important for slowing or stopping damage, they do not repair the damage already done. To repair damage or further slow the disease, new options will need to be explored.

Conclusions

While this is not immediately optimistic news for those with Alzheimer’s, understanding prevention options and the limits of current drugs is very important to ensure research dollars are spent most efficiently and that effort is directed in the most beneficial direction. Given that 1 in 8 people over 65 will develop Alzheimer’s and that the population over 65 is the fastest growing, having answers sooner than later will benefit not just those who develop Alzheimer’s but also those who would have to care for them.

Related Links

http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/dementia.htm
http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/index-timeline.htm
http://www.library.nhs.uk/rss/newsAndRssArticle.aspx?uri=http://www.library.nhs.uk/resources/?id=177046
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/80742.php
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090415171324.htm
http://medheadlines.com/2009/01/23/coffee-today-keeps-dementia-away/
http://www.physorg.com/news129223816.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7866022.stm
http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/10/11/dental-health-may-influence-alzheimers/1403.html
http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/news_events/news/alzheimers041508.cfm
http://www.physorg.com/news126533165.html
http://seniorliving.about.com/od/lifetransitionsaging/a/seniorpop.htm
http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2006/10/how-age-damaged-mitochondria-cause-your-cells-to-damage-you.php
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/65701.php

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Category: General Health, Health Risks, Medical Research

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