Alzheimer’s is claimed to be a disease for some scientists, but for others researcher believe that it’s not a disease and is simply just a part of growing old. These scientists believe that if everyone is capable of living long enough they will all experience this disease. In order to prove who is correct we must first know what Alzheimer’s is, what are its symptoms and how it affects the human mind. And finally from using cited articles, papers, and books we can come to a conclusion and see whether Alzheimer’s is an actual disease, or simply just a process of growing older.
Alzheimer’s: Is it a Disease or Simply Just Aging?
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that causes a slow and permanent decline in memory, language skills, thinking, awareness of time and space, and eventually the caring of one’s self. Although scientists are learning more every day about it, they still do not know what causes it, and there is still no medicine or treatment for it. Alzheimer’s disease is believed to be a severe disease in our world today, and the people in our world need to be more aware about the disease to help these people. In order for someone to understand and learn about the disease, they have to know about what it is, how it occurs, what causes it. There are scientists and researchers that claim Alzheimer’s is an actual disease that can have severe affects on humans, however there are other researchers that claim Alzheimer’s isn’t a disease, and is simply just a part of aging and growing old.
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In the article “National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness,” scientists estimate that as many as 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. This disease usually begins after the age of 60, and as the age goes up so does the risk. At the ages 65 to 74, there is a 5 percent chance in getting the disease. Also at the ages 85 and over, there is a 50% chance of getting the disease. While people in their 30s, 40s and 50s have a little chance of getting the disease, the disease at their stage is called early-onset Alzheimer’s. However, these scientists believe that Alzheimer’s isn’t a normal part of aging.
According to Bellenir Karen, the disease was first described by a German doctor, named Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1960, Dr. Alzheimer examined the brain of a woman who died of an unknown mental illness. When he examined her brain he found abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers. Today the disease is named after this doctor, and the abnormal things he found in the brain are now considered signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Bellenir, Karen states that the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s have abnormal formations, including abnormally shaped proteins called tangles and plaques. Not all parts of the brains show these abnormal formations. The areas that are mostly affected are those related to memory. Tangles are long, slim tendrils found inside nerve cells (neurons). Scientists have learned that when a protein called tau is changed, it may cause the tangles in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. In healthy brains, tau provides structural support for nerve cells, but in Alzheimer’s patients this structural support collapses. Plaques, or clumps of fibers, form outside the neurons in the nearby brain tissue. A type of protein, called amyloid precursor protein, forms toxic plaques when it is cut in two places. Researchers have found the two enzymes that cause the cuts are beta-secretase, and gamma secretase.
In the article “Neurobiological Bases for Alzheimer’s Disease,” scientists believe that tangles and plaques cause the nerve cells in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients to shrink and eventually die, first in the memory and language areas and finally throughout the whole brain. When the neurons die, they create gaps in the brain’s messaging network that may interfere with communication between cells, causing some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s patients have lower levels of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that carry complex messages back and forth between the nerve cells. With less neurotransmitter the memory communication in the brain is significantly decreased.
Author Juliet Cohen states in her article that it is not yet fully understood what causes the disease, but there are many possible factors that may cause the disease. These factors include Genetic inheritance, diets, environmental agents and brain traumas. There are also other factors that have not yet been proven to be factors for causing the disease, but are still under research. Scientists believe that genes may play a role in causing the Alzheimer’s disease. They have learned that people who are carriers of a specific version of the apolipoprotein E gene (apoE gene), are several times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than carriers of other versions of the apoE gene. The most common version of this gene in the general population is apoE3, and these people do not have the disease. Nearly half of Alzheimer’s patients have the less common apoE4 version, and research has shown that this gene plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have also found evidence that mutations in one or more genes located on chromosomes 1, 10, and 14 may increase a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It is recently known that the gene mutations on chromosomes 1 and 14 produce mutated proteins called presenilins. These mutated proteins start the activity of one of the enzymes that produce toxic plaques. These toxic plaques produce toxins that destroy nerve cells in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s disease.
From the information above we can verify that many scientists believe Alzheimer’s is a valid disease. However not all researchers believe in this claim, there are many other scientists and researchers that believe Alzheimer’s isn’t a disease but is only a part of getting older. According to Dr. Allen Roses a Duke University researcher who has extensively studied 293 people in 32 families in which the disorder is prevalent believes that Alzheimer’s may be a natural part of the aging process which occurs when a special type of gene in the human body wears out as we get older. “Just as people get wrinkles and grey hair at different ages the rate of Alzheimer’s cases increases with age,” he said. “But if we live long enough, we will all get Alzheimer’s disease”. (Shera Gross, 2000) he reported at a genetic conference jointly sponsored by Jacksons Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University. Alzheimer’s which affects an estimate of 4 million Americans is marked by progressive memory loss that is related with dead and dying brain cells. Alzheimer’s usually starts in the 60’s and by the age of 90, one of three people are affected by it, and by the age of 95 and above one of two people are affected. For this reason there are many researchers that believe Alzheimer’s is not a disease, since most humans will get these symptoms when they grow old.
In the article, “Is It Aging or Alzheimer’s?” memory expert Gary Small of UCLA says, “The brain ages just like the rest of the body.” He claims that at the age of 50 most people’s brains will slow down, since we begin to lose brain cells as we get older. When a human is in their 20s, they begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Their bodies also start to make less of the chemicals that their brain cells need to work. So the older you are, the more these changes can affect your memory. Aging may affect memory by changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information. Their short-term and remote memories aren’t usually affected by aging, but your recent memory may be affected. For example, they may forget names of people that they have met today or where they set their keys. At these ages we seem to forget, have mood swings at times and etc. This means as we grow older we begin to have some symptoms of Alzheimer.
According to the article “National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness,” many scientists claim Alzheimer’s disease to be a slow process and there are three stages of the disease. Firstly the early to mild stage symptoms which include mild forgetfulness and not knowing how to make decisions. Also, they might have difficulty in remembering recent events, activities, or the names of people or things that they know. The person will have trouble finding the right words to talk and to express themselves, and soon they will stop talking to avoid making mistakes. Also they have mild problems learning new things and remembering where they left common objects, such as keys or a wallet. The person will lose interest in doing activities, in others, in their own life and will become unorganized.
According to Brenda S. Paris, as the disease continues, the symptoms become easily visible and become serious enough to cause people with Alzheimer’s disease to go and look for medical aid. Also beginning to forget starts to interfere with daily routine. People in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease may not remember how to do easy tasks like brushing their teeth, their hair and even to an extent were they do not know how to swallow anymore. They can no longer think clearly, and begin to forget people and places that they know. Problems also begin to affect the way speak, understand, read, or write. Patients may have difficulty remembering what day or month it is, or finding their way around familiar surroundings. They may start wandering off and then be unable to find their way back. Patients often become short-tempered and unsociable as they struggle with fear and frustration. Also their everyday tasks become unfamiliar and annoying to them. Patients become paranoid and unable to engage in normal conversation. They may accuse, threaten, curse, be uneasy and behave inappropriately. Eventually in the final stages, Alzheimer’s patients become completely out of action and unable to take care of their most basic life functions, such as eating and using the bathroom. The person starts speaking in gibberish, and is difficult to understand. The patient may repetitively cry out, groan, mumble and scream loudly, forgets how to walk or is too unsteady. Begins sleeping more and loses control of his or her bladder. Finally patients become anxious, aggressive, wander away from home and stop caring for ones self.
This shows us that most researchers believe that there is a difference between aging and Alzheimer’s disease, even if there is some similar symptoms. According to the article “Is it aging or Alzheimer’s” scientists believe that Alzheimer’s is a disease because it has a much more drastic and severe affect on humans. These scientists claim that when people age they do begin to lose memory, but the symptoms are much more drastic to people that suffer with Alzheimer, because people with Alzheimer have the same problems of people that are aging includind more severe symptoms.
According to the article “Is it Aging or Alzheimer’s”.
Forgetting recently learned information is one sign of serious memory loss and possible Alzheimer’s.
Occasionally forgetting a task on a to-do list.
It is difficult to complete everyday tasks such as dialing the phone.
Sometimes drawing a blank on what you were about to say.
Simple words such as “toothbrush” or “car” cannot be recalled.
Occasionally forgetting a friend’s name, only to remember it later.
Frequently placing things in odd places such as putting a shoe in the freezer.
Most people temporarily misplace things such as keys or reading glasses, but not in odd places.
Rapid mood changes for no apparent reason.
Feeling sad or moody at times.
In the end we must come to the conclusion that Alzheimer’s disease, isn’t simply just aging or growing old, because we have proven that Alzheimer’s has different problems and also more drastic symptoms then a person who is simply just aging. Alzheimer’s disease is in fact so drastic to the human mind that it might eventually lead to their death. Scientists still need to learn a lot more about what causes Alzheimer’s disease and ways to prevent it. For this reason I believe that Alzheimer’s is a actual disease, and is not simply just apart of growing old.
Bellenir, Karen. (2003). Alzheimer’s disease: basic consumer health information about Alzheimer’s disease. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics
Brenda, S. Parris. (October 31, 2003). Creating an awareness. National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/alzheimers_disease/104318#ixzz0lYqBSTz9
Juliet, Cohen. (March 15, 2008). Health in health. Alzheimer’s Disease. Retrieved from
Kathleen, Fankelmann. (April 3, 2007). Is it Aging or Alzheimer’s? Retrieved from
Maier-Lorentz & Madeline M. (April 1, 2000). Neurobiological bases for Alzheimer’s disease. Retrieved from
Shera, Gross. (July 25, 2000). Alzheimer’s disease may just be a part of growing old. The Spokesman Review. Retrieved from
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