You will prepare and submit a term paper on Alzheimer’s Disease, a Family Trait. Your paper should be a minimum of 1750 words in length. It is characterized by loss of memory, apathy, depression, impaired judgment, confusion, difficulty in controlling behavior, and in walking, speaking and swallowing. The Alzheimer’s Association, a non-profit organization based in Chicago, lists ten warning signs that could point to an early onset of Alzheimer’s. The most typical sign of the disease is loss of memory that is not distinct from age-related forgetfulness. Alzheimer’s memory loss is characterized by forgetting important dates or events and not remembering these later. Another significant sign of early onset Alzheimer’s is losing the ability to do routine tasks involving numbers such as balancing a checkbook or paying monthly bills. Daily tasks are difficult to complete, whether at home or at work. Problems with vision and in speaking or writing, having sudden mood swings, and being suddenly anti-social are also associated with early signs of Alzheimer’s. Once these symptoms are observed, a visit to the doctor becomes very necessary. Although it has been more than 100 years since Alzheimer’s disease was identified, studies on its causes, treatment and symptoms started only thirty years ago. In persons with the disease, protein deposits called beta-amyloid accumulate outside of the neurons in the brain, while tau, another protein accumulates inside the neurons. The neurons comprise the nerve cells which are responsible for communicating information or signals to the brain. The nerve cells are connected to each other by synapses, where the information flows in tiny pulses. The brain has trillions of these synapses for creation of memories, movements, emotions, sensations and thoughts. In Alzheimer’s disease, the synapses have accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins that lead to interference in the transfer of information and the death of the neurons. Tau proteins inside the nerve cells also block nutrient and cellular flow, which also result in cell death. Imbalance between the removal of the beta amyloid proteins and the accumulation result in the formation of the neurofibrillary tangles. The brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease are littered with dead and dying neurons. Risk factors The chance of getting Alzheimer’s is increased when heritable mutations are present in the genetic make-up of certain individuals. People with this type are said to have “familial” Alzheimer’s disease. symptoms of the disease can be observed starting at age 30. However, this genetic and heritable type occurs in only 1% of the cases. Risk factors for the disease have been identified (Alzheimer’s Association, 2011). The primary risk factor is advancing age. Other risk factors are family history of Alzheimer’s, a specific form of apolipoprotein E-?4, having mild cognitive impairment, head trauma, and the presence of cardiovascular disease factors like high cholesterol levels. A medical history of Alzheimer’s also improves the chances of getting the disease, especially when a direct family member (parent or sibling) is afflicted with the disease. The correlation with apolipoprotein E-?4, and cardiovascular disease factors with the disease imply that lifestyle and diet can also contribute to disease development. Biochemical, genetic and medical history tests have been formulated that can actually predict the risk of having Alzheimer’s later in life.
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