No test to determine if a person has Alzheimer's. Doctors diagnose Alzheimer's based on:
- medical history
- a physical examination
- changes in thinking, day-to-day function, and behavior
No current cure, but there are treatments available to temporarily slow the worsening symptoms and improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.
Treatments (drug and non-drug):
- FDA approved medications for memory loss, behavior changes, problems sleeping
- non-drug treatments include creating a calm and comforting environment, keeping their lives on a set schedule, being patient when caring for those with Alzheimer's
- Episodic: memory loss is forgetting memories that are associated with both the short term and long term memory. In the first stages of Alzheimer’s, long term memories are easier to remember than short term memories.
- Semantic: memory loss occurs when the person who has Alzheimer’s forgets what certain objects are called.
- Procedural: memory loss occurs when the person forgets who to perform specific actions both mentally and physically. An example of procedural memory loss is the person forgetting how to pick up a fork to feed their self.
Communication: People affected by Alzheimer’s often lose the skills necessary to communicate with other people.
Personality Changes: Mood swings and behavior changes are common in people with Alzheimer’s. People who have been calm and polite their whole life may now be aggressive.
Behavior: Most people with Alzheimer's like to wander. They also can have no sense of time.
Physical Changes: Alzheimer’s patients are susceptible to weight loss because despite the fact that they are still taking in a normal amount of food, they may forget how to chew or swallow the food. Alzheimer’s patients can also become bed ridden in the later stages of the disease which cause them to not use their muscles.
Who is affected?
- Women are more affected by this disease.
- Old age does not cause the disease but aging people have a higher risk of being diagnosed with it. Once a person reaches the age of 65, their risk of being diagnosed increases greatly.
- Alzheimer’s has been discovered to be a dominant genetic disorder in rare cases. It has also been discovered that there is a link between chromosome 21 and Alzheimer’s. Since Down’s syndrome is caused by an abnormality within a chromosome, children with Down’s who reach a certain age in life may develop Alzheimer’s.
Is it hereditary?
- Majority of cases are not hereditary despite the fact that several people in one family may be diagnosed with the disease.
- This is not explained by genes, but just the fact that it is more common in older people.
- Everyone is at risk for Alzheimer’s whether or not they have family members that have been affected.
- It has been discovered that there is a gene on chromosome 19 that produces a protein called apolipoprotein E. The presence of this protein in the body increases a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s. This risk is not greatly increased, but it is increased some.
What Research is being done?
- There are more than 225 Alzheimer's clinical studies that are recruiting participants
- Clinical studies work with people in every stage of Alz
- People who are looking to take part in a trial: Must determine their diagnosis (mild, severe, moderate, mild cognitive impairment) also must know what medicine currently taking
- Clinical trials allow for testing new medications or therapies in series of steps
- There are only 5 drugs that have been approved by the FDA for Alz
- There is clinical studies focusing on better ways to diagnose Alz in its early stages
- Currently there are only drug therapies to treat Alz symptoms
- Doctors perform Brain Imaging which allows researchers to see brain changes
How is this related to Epigenetics?
- Enzymes have ONE job that they perform.
- There is a link that as people age they begin to have mutations in their enzymes.
- These mutations allow CH3 to begin to attach to places that they are not supposed to be.
- Thus, methylation of DNA occurs causing chemical modifications around the genes to switch on or off.
- Basically, the ability to create new memories is stopped in a person with Alzheimer's.
- Therefore, the reason why some people with Alzheimer's can remember things that occurred 50 some years ago but can't remember what they did 10 minutes ago.
- Brains of people who had Alzheimer's have been tested for DNA methylation after that person has died.
- Issues relating to ethics to test people with Alzheimer's brains before they pass away.
- Therefore, it is not known whether the DNA methylation occurs earlier on (like a possible symptom of Alzheimer's that could be treated) or if the methylation occurs later on.
- Researchers have recently found DNA next to a gene known as ANK1, which is a gene known for type 2 diabetes, had higher levels of methylation in people with Alzheimer's compared to people without the disease.