Alzheimer’s disease seems to damage and ultimately kill many of the nerve cells in the brain.
In the procedure of damaging or killing these nerve cells, it damages or weakens the links between them as well.
It does not damage nerve cells and links in every region of the brain, at least not at first.
For instance, it does not usually first affect the basic sensory or motor pathways of the brain, nor the lower centers that control breathing, eating, heartbeat, chewing, swallowing, or walking and other basic movements.
So these will not be affected in a person with Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.
But the damage to nerve cell links and nerve cells in Alzheimer’s disease usually does start first in the regions of the brain involved in memory, in the inner parts of the temporal lobes.
As a result, in the typical patient with Alzheimer’s disease, it begins with memory problems. These memory problems look in some ways like those of pure amnesia. The Alzheimer’s patient often has trouble learning or remembering anything new.
In Early Stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Usually, the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease is hardly noticeable. But then – over the course of a few years – the memory loss becomes more severe. The person forgets his keys, not just once a day, but all the time.
He is introduced to people and cannot remember them a few minutes later. He cannot remember why he walked into a room every time he walks into a room. He loses his way while trying to drive to someplace a little new and unfamiliar.
There may be a propensity for memories that still are preserved – old memories – to replace with for new ones. So the person with Alzheimer’s disease may endlessly repeat conversations and events from the past, or drive to a familiar but incorrect address instead of the new one.
Old memories also suffer as the disease gets worse. The loss of nerve cells and links begins erasing knowledge of even very well learned things, such as the names of grandchildren, or knowledge of familiar streets and routes.
These erasures of old information, combined with the problems learning anything new, may cause sufferers to get lost driving in an otherwise familiar location. Damage in the language regions of the brain frequently results in problems with finding the right words.
Damage Caused By Alzheimer’s Disease
Damage occurs in other parts of the brain in early Alzheimer’s disease additionally to these memory problems, which creates other kinds of problems.
The frontal regions of the brain arrange our behaviors and help us regulate and prioritize mental activities and keep some behaviors in check while letting others surface.
Damage in those frontal regions shows itself as changes in behavior. As a result, the patient with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to resist gambling or other vices. They may make unsuitable comments – ones we may normally think, but not normally say out loud.
The frontal lobes are also regions of the brain that seem important in providing motivation and direction. Damage to these areas can cause a patient with Alzheimer’s disease to become somewhat apathetic and lose initiative. They will sit all day, uninterested and unmoving.
The mind’s ability to find information and to link it together may also be damaged in Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s patient may “not be able to put 2 and 2 together.”
You may explain to them why they shouldn’t leave the gas burners on, and they may tell you they know not to leave the burners on – but they do it anyway.
Ward Off Aging Memory Problems With High-Impact Mental Aerobics
Several large studies have found a lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in intellectually active people compared with their mentally stagnant counterparts. And the mental activity can take many forms, such as reading, knitting, working jigsaw puzzles, painting, woodworking, and playing board games.
Some studies have even found that people with mentally demanding jobs – managers, professionals, etc. – experience less memory decline as they age when compared with their counterparts who have less demanding jobs.
Dr.- Joe Verghese and his associates at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York asked 469 older adults how often they participated in leisure activities like ‘dancing, playing cards, or doing crossword puzzles.
Over the years, the scientists kept track of who developed mild memory loss or full-blown dementia. They found that the people who were the most active mentally had a 63 percent lower risk of getting dementia compared with those who rarely played board games, read, or did similar actions.
The people who played the most had the most output: doing crossword puzzles four days each week translated into a 47 percent lower risk of dementia compared with once-a-week puzzle solvers.
For each day of the week that people exercised their minds, the researchers found nearly a 10 percent decrease in the risk for dementia.