by Maggie Z. Matthews
Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s or as some refer to this malady with the sound alike, similar sounding term “Old Timers” affects many people in their later years. Whether it was around all the time, and the diagnosis or label was not readily available or testable or now, or whether it is just a catch phrase by health care providers to provide a label for the family no one can really ascertain or say for sure. One major point can be made however when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, its diagnosis and progress is that memory loss by itself, is not part and not necessarily part of healthy aging. Alzheimer’s disease is something entirely different than ordinary standard aging as people grow older. Not all the elderly or will most people as they age “just get Alzheimer Disease”. It only happens to some as they age – it is not an eventuality that all the elderly and indeed ourselves will face with certainty in our later years.
The one catch phrase that covers the memory loss that occurs in people as they age – in the elderly component of our populations is the medical term “dementia”. Dementia is the larger catch phrase – the larger pool of patients who suffer from a variety and any number of illnesses that can result in memory loss. Dementia is not one disease – but a whole rainbow – a spectrum of a number of diseases of illnesses. Among the other illnesses that can be included in the larger overall group of dementia include - dementia as a result of strokes ( vascular dementia) , dementia as a result of physical problems in the brain ( fronto-temporal dementia), the group of brain disorders that most commonly serve as the model for mad cow disease “ Creutzfeld-Jakob disease”, among others. It can be said that Alzheimer’s disease is only one illness in this whole mix of illnesses that can cause memory loss. All patients who are said to have dementia may have memory loss – it may be minor, it may be more major, it may progress with time. On the other side of the coin – patients who do have Alzheimer’s disease will be said it have dementia.
What makes Alzheimer’s disease different and so readily identifiable than the others is that actual changes can be seen inside the brains of people who suffer from this illness and malady. Inside the brains of Alzheimer’s patient’s accumulations known specifically as “plaque” and “plaques” build up and start to actually choke off what were once very healthy brain cells. It can be said that in Alzheimer’s disease that the brain are actually choked off and killed by the blockage afforded within the brain itself by these plaques and plaque compounds. With time the brains of Alzheimer’s patients can be actually said to wither away. What results from the occurrence and growth of these plaque and areas of plaques are both plaques and areas of tangle in the brain?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, accumulative degenerative disease. Alzheimer’s disease seldom gets better, as time goes on the plaque and areas of plaques and tangles do their damage. The damages to the brain and specifically to memory are accumulative – that is they grow and increase with time. With an Alzheimer’s disease patent it is unlikely that they will recover or “get better”. Rather the hope with medications and the especially the newer Alzheimer’s Disease treatment medications is that the progress and advance of Alzheimer’s will be slowed down and reduced greatly in patients.