Understanding Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain that damages memory and thinking. It most often affects individuals over the age of 60 and gradually worsens over time.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing it and ways to slow its development.
Alzheimer's and Dementia Overview
Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia. Dementia is a term which describes a number of symptoms relating to the loss of mental ability. This can include difficulty with memory, judgement, and even motor skills.
There are several types of dementia. Alzheimer's is the most common, making up about two-thirds of all cases of dementia. Other types of dementia can be caused by a variety of factors, including head trauma, vitamin deficiency, and stroke.
Learn More: The Different Types of Dementia
Alzheimer's And The Brain
The brain consists of millions of cells called nerve cells. Nerve cells are responsible for the processes of the brain, processes like thinking and memory.
Alzheimer's damages and eventually destroys many of these brain cells. This damage is what causes the memory loss and the other problems commonly associated with Alzheimer's.
How Alzheimer's Damages the Brain - Plaques and Tangles
The exact way Alzheimer's damages the brain is complex and is still being researched. Currently, researchers believe the two largest contributors to the damage seen in Alzheimer's are Plaques and Tangles.
Amyloid Plaques have a toxic effect on brain cells and are believed to cause the brain lesions characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
Learn More: Amyloid Plaques
Tau acts as a structural support for the nerve cells of the brain. In Alzheimer's, Tau loses its ability to support the nerve cell, causing damage to the nerve cell.
Learn More: Tau Tangles
What Causes Plaques and Tangles?
Plaques and Tangles are not unique to Alzheimer's disease, they are also found in the brains of individuals without Alzheimer's.
However, Plaques and Tangles are found at much higher concentrations in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and are believed to be the main source of brain damage seen in Alzheimer's.
While there is no single explanation for the increased amount of Plaques and Tangles found in Alzheimer's patients, researchers have identified several contributing factors.
Learn More: Who Develops Alzheimer's?