Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Abby. Abby Wonders, “why do people get Alzheimers?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Abby!
As you're slipping your coat on, you hear your mom call out that it's time to head for the bus. No problem! You just need to grab your backpack and you can head out the front door. But wait a second. Where is it?
It was right there by your door last night. Wasn't it? Where could it have gone? You look all around your room to no avail. Finally, you call out for help and your mom reminds you that you put it inside your closet when you cleaned your room last night. Whew! That was a close one.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? We all forget things from time to time, especially when we're really busy or in a hurry. It's usually easier to forget things when we're under mental strain or pressure.
Sometimes, though, memory problems can become quite severe as we grow older. Some elderly people suffer from a condition that permanently affects the brain in a way that makes it difficult to remember even simple things, such as a spouse's name or how to perform basic tasks like tying a shoe.
Doctors call this condition Alzheimer's disease, and there may be as many as five million Americans with the disease. It tends to strike people 65 years and older.
Scientists don't know for sure what causes Alzheimer's disease. Some experts believe there is a genetic component to the disease. Others believe there are environmental and lifestyle factors that also play a role. Doctors do know that women are more likely to get Alzheimer's than men, and there's a greater chance of getting the disease the older you get.
Alzheimer's is characterized by a decrease in the number of neurotransmitters in the brain, along with a buildup of deposits of proteins and fibers in certain parts of the brain. These changes are irreversible and get worse over time.
These permanent changes in the brain affect how cells function, making it more difficult for messages to be sent within the brain. This usually leads to dementia, which is the impairment or loss of cognitive abilities, such as memory, thought, and reasoning. Over time, dementia often gets more severe until a person must rely completely on others to manage the daily tasks of life.
Alzheimer's disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first identified some of the changes in the brain now associated with the disease. As of today, there is still no cure for Alzheimer's disease.
Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease can be treated with a wide variety of medications and therapies to help improve and manage the symptoms of the disease. Some medications regulate neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby helping to improve memory and other cognitive functions. Other therapies might focus on keeping patients active both physically and mentally to help slow the progress of the disease.