Alzheimer’s: What it is and Its Warning Signs and Symptoms

December 15th, 2013 | Posted by in Alzheimer's | Home Health Care
About Alzheimer’s and Its Warning Signs and Symptoms

Alzheimer’s and Memory Loss

Alzheimer’s is NOT a normal progression of old age. It is a disorder, a disease, in which the brain’s nerve cells (neurons) are under attack. These neurons normally produce a specific chemical substance called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters mean pretty much what they sound like. They are substances that transmit messages from nerve cell to nerve cell.

When Alzheimer’s disease attacks, the nerve cells die and the acetylcholine can no longer transmit messages from the dead cell. The track is broken. The train (of messages telling the nerves what to do) cannot get through.

What happens when the messages can’t get through? What kind of messages are they? Well, first, Alzheimer’s attacks the nerve cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. This part of the brain transmits messages that allow access to the short-term memory banks. When they are killed by Alzheimer’s, we lose access to our short-term memory.

Next, Alzheimer’s typically attacks a part of the brain called the cerebral cortex. The neurons here tell the body how to speak and how to make decisions. So speech and judgment are the second and third things to go as Alzheimer’s progresses.

So how exactly does Alzheimer’s attack the nerve cells? Well, as much as science knows so far, this tends to happen when:

  • Clumps of sticky protein gather around and outside the nerve cells, stopping the neurotransmitters from getting through

OR

  • Protein fibers build up on the inside of the nerve cells themselves.

 Scientists know that a person likely has Alzheimer’s when they see one of these conditions in their brain. What they haven’t figured out yet, is what came first? The protein clumps and tangles? Or did the disease cause them?

What are some of the warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s?

  • Not being able to remember recent events, the usual places things are kept, or familiar people’s names
  • Having trouble finding the right words to express a thought
  • Acting suspicious of others, having mood swings, acting like a different person than before
  • Having difficulty doing daily tasks that should be second nature like getting dressed, making toast, or brushing teeth
  • Having trouble working with numbers like figuring out the tip at a restaurant or balancing a checkbook

If you or your loved one are experiencing these types of difficulties, please contact your doctor.  If daily chores become very difficult to manage on your own you could also consider Home care services.

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