Understanding Alzheimer's

By Jonathan Parry

Alzheimer's disease is still an extremely controversial subject as there is no known cause and no known cure. But thanks to microscopes, laser scans and a multitude of other medical advances, there really is no controversy about what part of the body Alzheimer's affects, and that is the brain. Alzheimer's essentially causes a loss of brain tissue over time that starts with a person forgetting simple things and progresses to fully fledged dementia. The big question that everyone wants to know is what causes Alzheimer's and what can be done to prevent it?

The only real consensus about Alzheimer's that scientists and experts can agree upon is that it appears that family history and age play a big part. While Alzheimer's is best known as a disease that affects the elderly population, there is a form of the disease called Early Onset Alzheimer's which effects people in their 30's and 40's and sometimes even younger.

The majority of cases, however, are in older people and unfortunately the older you get, the higher the chances are of you suffering from Alzheimer's. At the age of 65, it's thought that the chances of developing the disease are at about one and a half percent. At age 70, the risk goes up to three and a half percent and by age 75, it balloons to almost seven percent. While a strong correlation between Alzheimer's and anything else appears weak, age does seem to be a trigger.

The only other agreed upon trigger for Alzheimer's appears to be genetic. If a family member suffered from Alzheimer's, then chances are you might, as well. Looking at the numbers, if your mother or father suffered from Alzheimer's or if a brother or sister did, the chances of you developing it go up by two to three and a half times as much. And the more people in your family that develop it, the bigger the chances are of you developing it, as well.

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There are a few other widely accepted connections between Alzheimer's and genetics, such as certain defects on a particular chromosome that has been linked to Alzheimer's, as well as the numbers of particular proteins in the body has been shown to be a somewhat reliable marker for possible Alzheimer's development.

Once you leave the comfort zone of age and genetics, the cause of Alzheimer's is anyone's guess. Scattered studies have shown a connection between stress and Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's, diet and Alzheimer's, some links that show aluminium poisoning from drinking fluorinated water can cause Alzheimer's and even one study showed that smoking (the nicotine in tobacco) actually helps protect the body against Alzheimer's. No one knows at this point what really causes Alzheimer's, but medical science will not rest until more concrete links are found.

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