Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis

Almost 27 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (AD); although the exact number is unknown. My grandmother is one of them, and it is likely you know one or more persons affected. Much research has been done and billions of dollars invested in trying to discover which gene(s) are associated with AD and what medicine or natural remedies exist to damper or even reverse its effects.

Different hypotheses exist to try and explain this highly prevalent disease. The cholingeric hypothesis says it is caused by a lack of actylcholine, a neurotransmitter. The amyloid hypothesis says that deposits of a protein called amyloid beta causes AD. Yet another hypothesis says that hyperphosphorylated tau proteins tangle together to block communication of neurons. Whatever the reason biochemically, my consistently confused grandmother was washing dishes with Windex and bleach, combing her hair with toothpaste-filled toothbrushes, and putting shoes away in the refrigator when she got the chance. Yet she insisted on independence, because as a mother of 10 children, she has had years of experience. She would slip out the front door in the middle of the night under my supervision or start sweeping the leaves of the road in front of the house at 2am, almost giving me cardiac arrest!

Alzheimer's Disease Progression

Alzheimer's Disease Progression, Courtesy of American Health Assistance Foundation

As a caregiver of someone with AD, a lot of weight was placed on me. Some may call it a burden, considering that the caregiver manages medications that have only proven little, if any, progress in helping cure Alzheimer’s. Caring for someone with AD means 24/7 babysitting, as the victim is usually incapable of tending to his or her own needs and daily tasks. The home of an Alzheimer’s victim needs to be locked down, completely harm-free, and food needs to be minced before served.

Many proposals have been given, saying to eat cumin and turmeric to help prevent AD, or drink 3 cups of coffee daily (but no more than 5)! First scientists suggested practicing word-cross puzzles to keep a susceptible mind active, but then they discovered learning an instrument and playing suduko were better. A glass of red wine each night and learning a second language supposedly help keep the plaque away! There is certainly a higher correlation of AD in those who smoke and/or have diabetes, the latter of which one cannot usually prevent anyway.

Considering the poor medical management available for those with AD, I don’t think I would want to know whether I will get it or not. Even if I took genetic tests to check for mutations in my amyloid precursor protein or presenilins 1 and 2, the results aren’t conclusive. Would I even want to live my life knowing that at age 65 I might not remember my children, or I could wake up next to the unfamiliar face of a husband I’ve forgotten? Picking up another language doesn’t sounds like such a bad idea, but, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo Buscaglia