November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month
President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million. Get involved this month, and help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease! One great ways to get involved is to join your local Alzheimer’s Association and become a Champion!
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex.
Two types of abnormal lesions clog the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease: Beta-amyloid plaques—sticky clumps of protein fragments and cellular material that form outside and around neurons; and neurofibrillary tangles—insoluble twisted fibers composed largely of the protein tau that build up inside nerve cells. Although these structures are hallmarks of the disease, scientists are unclear whether they cause it or a byproduct of it.
Here are some signs of Alzheimer’s; memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or leisure, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, new problems with words in speaking or writing, misplace things and losing the ability to retrace steps, decreased or poor judgement, withdrawn from work or social activities, and changes in mood and personality. If a family member or friend displays one or two of these signs, you may want to keep a closer eye on the person, if they display more than two signs, you may want to schedule a doctor’s appointment to have your loved one examined.
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