Alzheimer's disease

From ArticleWorld

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. While there is no cure for the disease, there are drugs which alleviate the symptoms and temporarily reduce neurotransmitter degradation. It is characterized by a progressive deterioration in cognitive functioning with the first symptom one of mild memory loss, which gradually worsens. The condition goes on to affect language, recognition, coordinated movement and then, abilities which are connected with the frontal lobe of the brain, such as decision making and planning, change for the worse. Behaviour may also be affected.

The disease results in cell loss and deposition of amyloid placques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain.


There are no tests available today which are capable of conclusively diagnosing Alzheimer’s pre-mortem. This is only possible after death during the autopsy. It is possible, however, through clinical observation and psychological tests to ascertain the likelihood of Alzheimer’s to a high degree. These are tests of memory, attention and abstract thinking which are usually performed over weeks or months. Interviews with family members or caretakers are also considered a source of information.

Blood tests and neuroimaging are performed to rule out the possibility of the symptoms being caused by other factors.

Causes and treatment

The actual cause or causes of Alzheimer’s is still a matter of debate, but there are several theories. Some of these include the deficiency in the production of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine; tau protein abnormalities and beta-amyloid deprivation as being the causal factors in the disease. A genetic predisposition seems to be evident as does a link between head injury and the later development of the disease.

Prevention would seem to be better than the cure in the case of Alzheimer’s, and although there is no conclusive evidence, there are many studies which indicate positive factors. The primary risk factor for the disease is age, and there is not much that can be done about that but there are behaviour and lifestyle choices that seem to decrease the risk. For example, one study has shown that those who play chess regularly have a lower correlation with the disease, as does dancing and doing crosswords though to a lesser extent. Regular physical exercise and lowering cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking in middle age would seem to lessen the risk of Alzheimer’s developing in later life.