When a person is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, what is actually happening is the nerve cells are dying and there is a loss of tissue throughout the entire brain causing the brain to dramatically shrink.This shrinkage of the cells is what affects all of the brains’ functions. The cortex begins to shrivel and this damages the part of the brain that affects the thinking, memory and planning processes. The shrinkage in the hippocampus can be especially harsh and is probably one of the most frustrating aspects for Alzheimer’s patients because this is where new memories are formed.
When brain cells are studied through a microscope, it is noted that there are fewer synapses and nerve cells when compared to a healthy brain. The nerve cells that are dead and dying will have “tangles”, these are twisted fibers made up of another protein. These tangles create plaques that are an abnormal cluster that builds up in between the damaged nerve cells. These plaques and tangles are what scientist suspect to be the cause of Alzheimer’s although they are not absolutely sure if this is the primary reason for tissue loss and cell death in the brain. There are beta-amyloids in the brain; these are protein pieces that form into plaques. The beta-amyloid is a sticky substance, which is what causes them to clump and build the plaque. These protein pieces come from the fatty membrane surrounding the nerve cells. When they form the small clumps that start to block the cell-to-cell signals, which activates the immune system cells. This activation causes inflammation and begins to destroy the weaker cells. The tangles are the protein culprit behind the destruction of the cell transport system that is vital to brain health. This transport system is what carries nutrients and additional essential supplies to the brain cells. When this system is damaged these important nutrients can no longer travel through the nerve cells causing them to die.
Alzheimer’s progresses at differing rates for different people, but the pattern of the progression is predictable as it spreads through the cortex. Alzheimer’s patients, on average, live eight years, although some people have lived up to twenty years after the diagnosis. This range can depend on whether the person has other medical conditions and also the age of the person at the time of the diagnosis. Some of the earliest changes might begin more than twenty years prior to the diagnosis and are undetectable, such as the formation of plaques and tangles.
The mild to moderate states of Alzheimer’s can last between two and ten years. This is generally when a patient will experience memory loss and confusion that becomes noticeable enough to affect their work and social life. It is also during this time that the patient suffers from erratic changes in behavior and personality. The advanced stages of Alzheimer’s can last up to five years and it is during this time that patients experience an inability to speak, recognize their loved ones and are unable to care for themselves.
Senior Care Centers are dedicated to our Alzheimer’s patients and we understand the strain it can put on loved ones. If your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s and you don’t know what your options are, call Senior Care Center today and explore our Abri Memory Care options.