Every 67 seconds in the United States, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. Add to that, almost 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women and one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia while only 45% of patients with the disease, or their caregivers, report being told of the diagnosis and the facts appear grim. But there is hope for effective treatments today and studies being conducted to detect what causes Alzheimer’s disease.
The sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease effects an estimated 5.3 million Americans. Of these patients, approximately 5.1 million are over the age of 65, while around 200,000 people suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s. While scientists don’t fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease, they do know that it is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning that brain cell death is progressive and happens over time. Though patients living with Alzheimer’s disease cannot have their brain matter tested, autopsies have found that Alzheimer’s patients have in common that the nerve tissue in their brain has plaques and tangles. Plaques are found between the dying brain cells, while tangles are within the brain neurons.
Some risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease are age, family history, genetic disposition and sex as more women than men are effected. While these factors are unavoidable risk factors, some potentially avoidable risk factors include controlling blood pressure, head injury, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, which deprives the brain of oxygen and even estrogen hormone replacement therapy has been linked to Alzheimer’s.
While Alzheimer’s is largely linked to age, there is new data today showing that the plaques in the brain are actually present in people as young as 20 years old. One study analyzed the brains of 13 people between the ages of 20 and 66 with no mental health problems, 14 dementia-free people between 70 and 99 and 21 Alzheimier’s patients between 60 and95. Toxic buildup was seen among a certain type of neuron, known to be vulnerable to cell death in Alzheimer’s patients, across all ages and levels of health. Though more apparent in older brains and those with Alzheimer’s, some of the older patients had amounts similar to those of the younger patients.
Though it is impossible to know if these healthy people would progress into Alzheimer’s patients, Dr Stephen Salloway said that the findings may be a “key step” in the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease. “This process seems to occur earlier in these cells than other brain regions,” Salloway noted. Determining why these particular basal neurons are more prone to plaque buildup than other types of neurons “will provide important clues for solving the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, please visit the Association website by clicking here. And to find out how Dr Ellis and his team at the Georgia Chiropractic Neurology Center can help you or a loved one struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, please contact us at 770-664-4288 today.