Many think that Alzheimer’s disease affects only elderly people. Yet it is estimated that up to five percent of people with Alzheimer’s have Early Onset Alzheimer’s, which affects adults as young as in their thirties. In addition to the medical issues, there are social issues.
Because Alzheimer’s makes it difficult to carry out normal daily tasks, family and friends must step in to be caregivers. As our population ages, there’s a good chance that you know someone who is now or will somehow be affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which makes it a good research paper topic.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
The Alzheimer’s Association has a website that explains “What Is Alzheimer’s?” along with statistics and data on clinical studies.
Some basic facts that describe Alzheimer’s include:
- It is the most common form of dementia (memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life)
- It is not a part of normal aging
- Up to five percent of those with Alzheimer’s have symptoms that appear when these people are in their forties
- Alzheimer’s worsens over time
While there is currently no cure, there are treatments for the symptoms. Meanwhile the research continues.
Causes of Alzheimer’s
When working on your research paper, start your research at Questia where you’ll find tools to help you find scholarly resources, take notes, and bookmark, store and cite your sources. Use the Library feature and start with Science and Technology topics, where you will find health and medicine topics that include diseases and disorders.
One of the full-text books available at Questia is the book, Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease, by Rudolph E. Tanzi and Ann B. Parson.
In their book, Tanzi and Parson worked from the hypothesis that Alzheimer’s dementia is the result of a renegade protein, beta amyloid, and set out with others to find the gene responsible for its production. Decoding Darkness offers an intimate view of the high-stakes molecular genetics research process and the various political and social issues that drive it. Ultimately they reveal a connection between Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
“Indeed, in recent years, accumulating studies provide evidence of a heart-brain connection in Alzheimer’s. What’s bad for the heart appears bad for the brain — which should surprise no one.[…] That the APOE-4 gene is associated with an increased risk for both atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s further supports a role for cholesterol in Alzheimer’s,” Tanzi and Parson stated.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
The National Institute of Health (NIH) National Institute on Aging site houses an Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center with information on signs, symptoms, causes and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Several medications have been approved for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
These symptoms include:
- Mild cognitive impairment (MCI): more memory problems than normal for their age
- Movement difficulties
- Problems with sense of smell
- Trouble finding the right word
- Vision or spatial issues
As the disease progresses, the symptoms grow worse and it becomes more difficult to perform typical daily tasks such as handling and paying bills. There may also be personality or behavior changes. This stage is defined as “Mild Alzheimer’s” and it is at this point where diagnosis is most likely to occur.
The next stage is Moderate Alzheimer’s, where damage to the brain causes more memory loss and confusion. People may have problems recognizing family and friends and could display paranoia or impulsive behavior.
In the next stage, Severe Alzheimer’s, the brain tissue begins to shrink significantly. People cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others for their care.
Research suggests that there are many factors beyond genetics that could affect the course of the disease.
According to NIH, “A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials are testing some of these possibilities.”
You can learn more about issues in health and medicine at Questia.
Do you know anyone who has felt the impact of early onset Alzheimer’s disease in their family? Tell us about it in the comments.