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Elder Care Professionals Discuss The Effects Of Alzheimer’s Disease On The Brain

Sep 21, 2018 by Garrett Sullivan

We want to welcome you back to the third part of our four-part series about Alzheimer’s disease. September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and, in this article, we will talk about how Alzheimer’s affects the brain and what goes on in our heads as the disease develops and progresses over time.

In case you missed it: Part 1 | Part 2

Four Important Parts of the Brain

Our brain is one of the most powerful and complex organs within the body. There are many intricate features within the brain, but today, our elder care specialists will be focusing on four main areas of the brain and what their responsibilities are and how they are affected by Alzheimer’s.

  • Brain Stem – This stem connects your spinal cord to your brain and it is responsible for specific functions within the body such as breathing and digestion
  • Cerebrum – This section of your brain is responsible for recalling and remembering information, thinking, problem solving, and feeling. This is the largest section of your brain
  • Cortex – This is a layer of the cerebrum and it works to control functions within the body. The cortex is made up of four lobes and each one is assigned a specific function
  • Cerebellum – This section of the brain is in the rear near the skull and it is small. This area is responsible for your balance and coordination

How the Brain Receives Signals

Your brain is made up of billion of blood vessels and neurons that work together to carry signals to assigned areas in the brain. A brain signal is known as an electrical charge and this charge tells your brain what to do and is responsible for your thoughts, memories, and feelings.

Charges are created and then travel down the neuron path until they reach an area in the brain known as the synapses, which is where all the cells connect with one another. Once the charge reaches the synapses, it lets out a burst of chemicals known as neurotransmitters, that then carry the signals to other cells within the body. Alzheimer’s disease hits this area of the brain the hardest.

How Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain Specifically

Healthy synapses and neurons are required for the brain to function. When Alzheimer’s disease starts, the power of these areas is diminished due to plaques and tangles that form within them.

  • Plaques – These are clusters of protein fragments that are clumped together between the synapses
  • Tangles – These are strands of protein fragments that twist around the neurons

Plaques and tangles generally form the exact same pattern, but they differ in their development and progression. There is no one set timeframe that everyone will have these develop. Once the plaques and tangles are formed, they will disrupt the function of the brain and force signals to go nowhere or down unusual paths. When the neurons go unused, they will die, deteriorate, and rot. Therefore, they say Alzheimer’s is the true killer of the brain.

Individuals who are in the earliest stages of the disease will often have plaques and tangles form and they form in the areas that are responsible for learning, thinking, and memories. Changes in personality, mood, and behavior are often subtle at this point and may not be noticed. Alzheimer’s does not often present itself that well until the mid-stages and this is when individuals are often diagnosed.

The mid-stages of Alzheimer’s are when the proteins will start to spread out within the brain and they affect areas of speech, the understanding of spoken speech, and spatial awareness. Elder care professionals are often called upon to care for individuals at this time. The final stage of Alzheimer’s is the worst and when the brain’s cortex suffers the most damage. The brain often shrinks due to the rotting and dying of cells and neurons.

Walking To End Alzheimer’s

It is difficult to watch someone you love experience this and deteriorate in health. To better understand Alzheimer’s disease and its true effect on individuals, join us at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event. You can help bring awareness, walk with a group, or donate.

The Walk To End Alzheimer’s

Date: Sunday, September 30th

Place: Lighthouse Point Park 
2 Lighthouse Road
New Haven, CT 06512 

Time: Registration at 8:30 am 
Ceremony at 10 am 
Walk at 10:30 am

Route Length: 2 miles

Our elder care team invites you to come back next week to read our last part in this four-part series. 

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