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Literally Losing Your Mind: the Effects of Alzheimer's Disease

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The brain is the most vital organ in the body next to the heart. The brain functions so that every other organ and bodily system of an organism works as well as possible. However, there are medical conditions that may prevent an individual’s brain from working the way it was designed to. For instance, “Alzheimer’s is the most common form of mental decline, or dementia, in older adults.” The issues surrounding Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s related dementia are complicated when compared to the facets of the brain itself. The brain is connected to the central nervous system, making the processes conducted inside of the brain mysterious in nature. On another note, “Alzheimer’s disease damages parts of the brain differently in each individual. Yet, it helps to understand the workings of the various parts of the brain and how they are affected by the disease.” To understand which parts of the brain are affected most by Alzheimer’s, the condition itself must be examined.

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What is Alzheimer’s?

The memories of an individual are locked deep within the brain, however the “vault” of an individual can be broken in to under certain unfortunate circumstances. Mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia can bring these issues and circumstances to light. By definition, “Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that destroys the connections between cells in the brain.” These connections are vital for daily functions such as eating, drinking, walking and breathing. Talking and speech are also controlled by the brain. The brain can only conduct these processes if it contains enough healthy cells to work properly. Because of Alzheimer’s and dementia, “these cells die, which affects how the brain works. As cells die in the outer layer of the brain-called the cortex-it shrinks, and the spaces in the brain get larger.” Essentially, the mass of the brain decreases, creating more of a distance for the cells of the brain to travel. When discussing other portions of the brain, “the frontal lobe is responsible for judgment and planning and is the seat of our personality. This is the “executive function” headquarters, so to speak, which includes making good decisions, initiating activities and having appropriate dialogue in social settings.” Overall, dementia robs an individual of the small sections of the mind that make an individual human.

What Parts of the Brain are Impacted?

Each portion of the brain is responsible for several vital functions of the mind and body. Damage to each of these sections will result in significant negative changes to the body. To elaborate, “the hippocampus, a part of the limbic system of the brain, is the keeper of our life stories and is the seat of short-term memory.” The hippocampus is perhaps the most important portion of the brain when discussing social functions. The condition of Alzheimer’s disturbs “everything we hear, feel, touch, smell and taste first processes through the hippocampus, where it is sorted and sent to long-term storage areas in other parts of the brain. The hippocampus is the first area to be damaged by Alzheimer’s disease.” However, Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s related dementia does not end at the hippocampus but progresses through the rest of mind. In fact, Alzheimer’s is almost systematic in how it destroys the mind and its contents. For example, “the damage to the brain in someone with Alzheimer’s typically moves from the hippocampus to the temporal lobe, and this causes problems in communication and word finding.” Communication is an integral part of the human condition, making this facet of life a terrible thing to lose. However, modern medicine has allowed for individuals with Alzheimer’s to lead decent lives despite their condition.

How can Alzheimer’s be Treated?

Alzheimer’s is considered a chronic and progressive condition, making it difficult to pinpoint in the medical world. To expand on that note, “currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. But drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms.” Since every individual is different, not every treatment method available to the public may work for said individual. Despite this, medical research realizes the full impact that this condition has on the world, so professionals and physicians do what they can to aid in this issue. Furthermore, “researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia.” The main aspect related to Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s related dementia treatment would be hope.

To expand on what can be done in terms of Alzheimer’s, medication and physician guided treatments are the most beneficial. To be perfectly clear on the matter, “there is no cure, Alzheimer’s medications can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.” Impending the issues of Alzheimer’s is a major step in the right direction in reference to modern medicine. In the past, an individual with Alzheimer’s did not have the tools available to survive with their condition. The brain and all of its complexities made medicine more problematic than many physicians realized. In the brain, “neurons connect and communicate at synapses, where tiny bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters carry information from one cell to another. Alzheimer’s disrupts this process, and eventually destroys synapses and kills neurons, damaging the brain’s communication network.” Brain damage is easily stated, yet the ramifications of this issue go beyond what any individual should endure. Overall, “the damage to the brain eventually causes problems with memory, intelligence, judgment, language, and behavior.” Each of the elements of human life listed above are removed by Alzheimer’s. However, this may not always be the case in the future as long as individuals remain hopeful.

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