Alzheimer¡¦s disease is a slow, progressive, and degenerative disease of the brain. This disease is marked by a gradual loss of memory and other cognitive functions. "Alzheimer's Disease is also known as the most common cause of dementia--a general term referring to the loss of memory and the ability to think, reason, function, and behave properly" (Medina,1999). It primarily affects adults in their 60's or older and eventually destroys a person's ability to perform simple, routine tasks or even to care for themselves. Statistics show that "as many as 10 percent of all people 65 years of age and older have Alzheimer's," and that approximately "50 percent of all people 85 or older also have the disease" (WebMD, n.d.).
Originally it was thought to be a rare condition affecting only young people, and was referred to as pre-senile dementia. Today late-onset Alzheimer¡¦s disease is recognized as the most common cause of the loss of mental function in those aged 65 and over. "Alzheimer¡¦s in people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, called early-onset Alzheimer¡¦s disease, occurs much less frequently, accounting for less than 10 percent of the estimated 4 million Alzheimer¡¦s cases in the United States" (Encarta, 2004). Alzheimer's disease advances in stages, progressing from mild absentmindedness and cognitive impairment to widespread loss of mental abilities. In advanced Alzheimer's, people become dependent on others for every aspect of their care. The most common cause of death among Alzheimer's patients is infection. Even though scientists are still learning about Alzheimer¡¦s, there is no cure.
Alzheimer's disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor. "In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. He found abnormal clumps (now called amyliod plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles) within the brain"(ADEAR, 2004). Scientists have found that tangles and plaques cause the neurons in the brains of Alzheimer¡¦s patients to shrink and eventually die. They start in the memory and language centers and finally invade throughout the brain. "This widespread neuron degeneration leaves gaps in the brain¡¦s messaging network that may interfere with communication between cells, causing some of the symptoms of Alzheimer¡¦s disease" (Cutler & Sramek, 1996). Today, these certain plaques and tangles found in the brain are considered to be the tell tale signs of Alzheimer's disease.
The cause of Alzheimer¡¦s disease still remains a mystery today. Researchers are learning about what happens to the brain as we grow old, what happens to brain cells in Alzheimer's Disease, which genes are associated,...