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In my research paper I will be addressing the topic of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia related disorders. I chose this topic because it is dearest to me due to my father being diagnosed with this deliberating cognitive disorder at the age of 64, and it was in my intention to learn more about the topic and go further into research about this disorder. Have you thought to yourself that at one point in our lives that we humans will be diagnosed with a disease or disorder that can change the rest of our lives for the worst? Well for my family Alzheimer’s was one of those diseases that steals loved ones away from you. Is Alzheimer’s disease curable or are people who are diagnosed with the degeneration of the brain slowly wearing away with the disease? This is one of the questions that will be answered throughout my research essay. The main concern of the topic is there a cure to this disease and if not is there a treatment that can slowly progress the symptoms of the disease. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are currently unknown. However, extensive studies using new technology had led to new ways of accurately diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, an understanding way of the mechanism involved regarding the development of Alzheimer’s disease and memory diseases, and the amount of damage it causes in the human brain.
The main focus of this research paper is to address the misconception of the disease and addressing evidence to the contrary which goes into further detail about the deliberating disease which is affecting millions of adults all over the world of which one is my father. This paper looks at the various studies conducted by researchers in an attempt to show the factors attributed to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In this paper, I will address research provided by various researchers, health care professionals; psychologists on the environmental, genetic risk factors and lifestyle are attributed to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and diseases related to cognitive dysfunction of memory.
In the introduction, I mentioned a brief description, but to go into further detail, what does it mean for a person to have a cognitive disease. According to the national institute of aging, “Alzheimer’s disease is deliberating and irreversible condition that affects the brain, Alzheimer’s disease is a condition in which it slowly over time progresses and destroys a person's memory and affects the thinking process, and eventually it can also affect a person's overall lifestyle and cause the person to undergo cognitive changes which can affect the simplest life tasks such as eating, cooking, bathing and forgetting loved ones”. According to the national institute of aging, “Alzheimer’s disease starts to show symptoms as soon as a person in their late 50’s, also its estimated that almost 5.5 million Americans living in the United States ages 65 are living with some sort of cognitive disorder such as dementia which later progresses to Alzheimer’s disease. It is said to currently be the 6th leading cause of death in the United States in older adults.
As humans age, we tend to naturally form some sort of cognitive decline, as our brain cells age, they input and output less information and our memory tends to slowly decline, but when is line drawn from the natural aging process to being diagnosed with a cognitive declining brain disorder? Individuals whom are diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease start to show problems in memory early on in the prognosis of the disease. Some examples according to the Alzheimer’s association are “memory loss that interrupts an individual's daily life such as forgetting to turn off the stove, forgetting where he/she placed the house keys, letting the shower run, forgetting to flush after using the restroom, etc. According to the Alzheimer’s association, “another symptom that distinguishes natural aging from Alzheimer’s cognitive decline is having problems or it becomes a challenge to plan or solve problems that occur is our daily lives for example paying the bills on time, withdrawing money from the bank and forgetting your pin number, forgetting how much the individual has in his/her bank account and all the assets. This is one of the symptoms of cognitive disorder compared to an individual who is aging gracefully and does not suffer from such mishaps.
Another symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is forgetting how to operate certain familiar tasks for example driving, the use of the microwave, oven, riding a bike, the use of a computer. This may be difficult for an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s compared to a person aging normally without any major cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s association, the next symptom to me is one of the most important symptoms that distinguishes an aging individual from one that is suffering from Alzheimer’s and that is that the person is confused with time and place. “The individual suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to tell when it's dark outside or when the sun is up, may be confused on seasons in the year, time of the year, months and dates and where they are”. One of the struggles my father had was with telling time and the distinguishing the changing of the months on the calendar. He had trouble distinguishing what month and what year we were living in and thought it was the 1990’s still. This was one of the most heartbreaking times when a parent or loved one forgets certain dates such as wedding anniversaries, birthdays of their children, special holidays and more.
Neuropsychology and effects of the disorders
What caught my attention when my father first got diagnosed with the disorder is what if he is being misdiagnosed? how do doctors are really sure that the patient is correctly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Well according to Mayo Clinic, “In order to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease or any sort of disease that deals with cognitive impairment, the doctor most likely a neurologist evaluate a person’s signs and symptoms of the disorder. Doctors further address several cognitive tests that help a patient correctly get diagnosed and seek treatment. The tests that doctors use to rule out Alzheimer’s disease are as followed, “Mental status testing in which the doctors use a score system to keep in track of the patient’s cognitive skills such as remembering names, dates, events. The second most common test to rule out Alzheimer’s disease according to mayo clinic is neuropsychological testing which a neuropsychologist tests certain everyday life skills such as if the patient is able to function and maintain everyday tasks such as operating a vehicle, managing finances, and during the clinical evaluation the doctor may interview family members and get details about the lifestyle of the patient. Doctors further evaluate for additional testing, one which is laboratory tests that may be causing dementia and cognitive decline, according to mayo clinic, “certain thyroid disorders and vitamin b12 deficiency may cause symptoms of Alzheimer’s” therefore this is why doctors conduct laboratory tests to rule out any deficiency in blood exams.
Moving forward, there are advance testing’s that look into the brain to determine Alzheimer’s disease in which the scans show the size, neurons of the brain, any mass that may be causing cognitive decline. According to mayo clinic, the most common brain imaging scans used to determine Alzheimer’s disease are magnetic resonance imaging or MRI which use radio waves and magnets which create a detailed view of the brain which helps doctors and researchers take deeper look into the brain. The second imagine is a computerized tomography or a CT scan which a CT x ray machine takes cross sectional images of the brain which can help doctors rule out the disease. There is a more intensive imaging which gives the most detailed imaging of the brain, Positron emission tomography or PET scan which the patient is injected with a radioactive substance in the vein then the patient’s metabolic changes can help doctors determine degenerating brain disease which may help doctors and researchers rule out Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes to treating Alzheimer’s patient using medication, there are a handful of medications which can help improve memory. In this section of the essay, I will go over pharmaceutical drugs and natural remedy in which interests my research part of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s association, current medication used for cognitive decline which is approved by the food and drug admistration, FDA approved two medications which treat cognitive symptoms are “cholinesterase inhibitors under the brand name Aricept, Exelon and Razadyne and memantine which sells under the brand name Namenda which help to treat cognitive symptoms which come with the disease such as memory loss, confusion and thinking associated with the disease”.
Further researching the article on Alzheimer’s disease from the Alzheimer’s association, as the disease progresses, this causes the brain cells to diminish and loosing connections in the neurons which causes a person’s cognitive symptom to worsen over time. There isn’t a cure to the disease, but medication has proven to slow the progression of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s association, “cholinesterase inhibitors help to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a chemical location in the brain which is important for learning and memory. There are few side effects associated with the medication, some are as followed, “nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and increased bowel movement”, according to Alzheimer’s association. The medication discussed above are for early Alzheimer’s disease to mild progression. The next series of medication used which are used for moderate to severe stages of the disease is memantine with a combination of donepezil combination which according to the FDA is “the only treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.”
When it comes to holistic approaches to treating the disease, there are some proven remedies which help the progression of the disease. Upon researching an article called “Alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease” by Healthline.com, I came across some potential holistic treatments that can help slow down the degeneration of the disease and help the person live a more comfortable life. Although these holistic treatments are not proven to help prevent or treat the disease hence since there isn’t a cure to the disease, these natural remedies may help slow down the progression of the disease or prevent the disease. According to the website, the first holistic approach is the use of coconut oil, coconut oil contains a fatty acid called caprylic acid which the body breaks down the acid into a protein called a ketone, which according to the article, “research has been proven patients who had used coconut oil has better memory performance and had less cognitive decline”.
Another holistic approach alternate to medicine is the use of omega- 3 fatty acids, according to the website healthline.com, “researchers had conducted their study and found out the patient diagnosed with the disease or have been experiencing cognitive decline suffered from reduced cognitive impairment”. There are certain foods which contain omega-3 such as fish, nuts, and taking supplements with omega-3. Further down the article, I came across a mineral called coenzyme Q10 supplements that can prevent or stop the degeneration of the brain cells. According to Healthline, “Coenzyme Q10 is not being studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease”. As the disease progresses, patients have a difficult time with sleeping and determining a time schedule. According to the article Healthline, bright light therapy can help patients who have been suffering from cognitive decline or if the degeneration if affecting a person’s circadian rhythm can benefit from bright light therapy. According to the article, “Studies have found out that light therapy helps to restore a well balance to a person’s sleep and wake cycle also known as a person’s circadian rhythm”. With bright light therapy, it’s very simple, at night time, you cover the shades or get specialized darker shades in the bedroom, and when it’s time to take up, you open the shades to reveal the brightness of the sun which indicates the brain that it’s the morning time. A person with cognitive decline may help to determine when its dark outside, it’s time to sleep and when its daytime, it’s time to get up. This may help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease determine when to get up and when to sleep which may help with their sleep pattern and help then get a good night of sleep. The last holistic approach to helping prevent to naturally treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or to improve cognitive memory is the use of a supplement called gingko biloba. According to the website Healthline, studies have shown that the use of the supplement “gingko biloba may help people suffering from the cognitive degeneration may benefit from the supplement”. This personally to me is a new innovation for the future of people who are experiencing cognitive decline early on. This makes me delightful that there are certain approaches one can take in order to prevent the disease, which can in hopes help patients and families of people being diagnosed with cognitive decline.
In conclusion, in my paper I have discussed the disease in a research perspective and have gone into detail about the disease and the symptoms of people living with this brain robbing disease. As mentioned in the introduction, after conducting several research articles about the disease, it helped me better understand the stages of the disease which I can apply in my personal life which this disease has affected the most precious person in my life, my father. Like mentioned in this paper, currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and no treatment will help stop or reverse its progression. As the population of the world continues to age, the number of people suffering from this disease will rise worldwide.
Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult illness to live with; it affects the individual suffering from it and the surrounding family. I hope that in the future, there will be a cure to this devastating disease, which may bring comfort to the people suffering from the illness as well as their families. As a Christian, conducting research on the topic has helped me put my mind in ease, and believe that God will help the people suffering from the condition. He will also educate their family on the disease gain knowledge on the disease and assist them throughout their loved one’s progression. My own personal dream goals are to be geriatric advocate to help older individuals overcome depression and help patients with diseases and symptoms of aging. I feel from a Christian perceptive, being psychology major will help me grow in my career and have the Christian background that comes with religion. It will be beneficial in my career, which I can apply to the real world.
- Alzheimer’s disease. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/doctors-departments/ddc-20350457.
- National Institute on aging. May 22nd, 2019. Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. Retrieved from; https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet.
- Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d).10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Retrieved from; https://www.alz.org.
- Healthline. Alternate treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. February 7th, 2017. Retrieved from; https://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease/alternative-treatments.
- Alzheimer’s association. (n.d). Medication for memory. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/medications-for-memory.
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