Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment Center
What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?
Scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research has shown that it develops because of a complex series of events that take place in the brain over a long period of time. It is likely that the causes include some mix of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Because people differ in their genetic make-up and lifestyle, the importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s may differ from person to person.
Alzheimer’s Disease 101
There are many types of dementia, all caused by a different process occurring with the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people accounting upwards of 80% of the cases over the age of 65. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities, to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.
Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. Her symptoms included memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior. Upon her death Dr. Alzheimer examined her brain and found many abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles). The plaques are made up of beta amyloid fibrils that ‘clump’ in the brain and ultimately kill neurons. The tangles occur when the tau protein molecule destabilizes within the neuron itself, become ‘tangled’ and also contribute to the progression of the disease.
What are the Early Warning Signs and Symptoms?
Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of cognitive loss, possibly due to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Difficulty finding words in conversations, misplacing objects and attentional changes are all considered early warning signs or symptoms possibly. Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). People with this condition have more memory problems than normal for people their age, but their symptoms are not as severe as those seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The ability of people with MCI to perform normal daily activities is not significantly impaired, only mildly different from their previous level of functioning. Approximately 15% of the individuals with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s on an annual basis.
Changes in the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease
Although we still don’t exactly know how the Alzheimer’s disease process begins, experts now believe that damage to the brain starts a decade or more before problems become evident. During the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, people are free of symptoms but toxic changes are taking place in the brain. Abnormal deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain, and once-healthy neurons begin to work less efficiently. As a result of these accumulations of plaques and tangles, neurons lose their ability to function and communicate with each other, and eventually they die.
What are the Stages of Alzheimer's Disease?
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): In the early stage of memory or cognitive impairment symptoms may not be widely apparent, but the person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as getting lost, repeating questions or location everyday items. These are greater than those expected with normal aging, but not as severe as those seen in Alzheimer’s Disease. Those with MCI are at an increased risk of developing dementia. MCI can be a precursor to dementia, but not al people with MCI will progress to dementia.
Moderate: In this stage, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. Memory loss and confusion grow worse, and people begin to have problems recognizing family and friends. They may be unable to learn new things, carry out tasks that involve multiple steps (such as getting dressed), or cope with new situations. They may have other behavioral changes taking place, such as increased agitation or delusions.
Severe: By the final stage, plaques and tangles have spread throughout the brain, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly. People with severe Alzheimer’s have extreme difficulty communicating and are completely dependent on others for their care. Near the end, the person may be in bed most or all of the time as the body shuts down.
Why are clinical trials so important to everyone?
Have you ever taken a medicine or prescribed medication for an ailment? Then you have been given that opportunity because of people before you that went through a clinical trial to get that medicine or medication approved. A clinical trial is also extremely beneficial for the participate for the ability to be monitored on a regular basis of their vitals and physicals in addition to their regular physicians, not to mention, more valuable time with a physician.
What is a clinical trial that specializes in memory and are they safe?
A clinical trial, also known as a clinical study, is research that is done to help find medical treatments that can help improve, in our case, cognitive health. These trials generally include different forms of medications, different tests, and exercises. Every trial must be approved and strictly monitored by an IRB, Institutional Review Board, to make sure the risks are as low as possible and are worth any potential benefits. All sites that conduct or support biomedical research involving people must, by federal regulation, have an IRB that approves and periodically reviews the research to ensure a person’s safety.
How do I know if I qualify for a clinical trial?
We encourage anyone over the age of 50 to come in for a free memory evaluation. We have many clinical trials in lace and this evaluation will help determine the best trial for an individual. There are multiple factors that we must take into consideration such as age, evaluation results, medical history and medications being taken by an individual.
If you qualify, there is never a cost to you. You will receive a full work up including but not limited to a memory evaluation, consultation with a physician, and brain imaging, all complementary.
If you would like more information, please call us at 561-209-2400 or email us email@example.com.