Our brains change as we age just like the rest of our bodies. Many of us notice our thinking is slower and our reactions are sometimes slower. We may have occasional problems remembering certain things.
Serious memory loss, however, confusion and other major changes in the way our brain works are not the usual part of aging. If those things occur they may be a sign that brain cells are failing and future problems may occur.
It is estimated that the brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell communicates with many others to form networks in the brain. Nerve cell networks have special jobs. Some are involved in thinking, learning and remembering, while others help us to see, hear and smell.
Still others tell our muscles when to move. The nerve cells tell our bodies many things to do and how to react. When they do not function properly there are problems that will occur.
Brain cells operate like tiny little factories and usually do specialized work. They take in food supplies, generate energy, and get rid of waste. The cells also process and store information. We need this information to help perform our daily tasks and other functions. Keeping everything running requires coordination as well as large amounts of fuel and oxygen.
In Alzheimer’s disease, parts of the cell’s factory stop running well. Scientists are not sure exactly where the trouble starts. But just like a real factory, backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs well. Eventually, they die.
As and when they do, the person experiences all sorts of problems from loss of speech, comprehension, and sometimes loss of ability to do everyday things they have been doing all their life. The mere act of going to the bathroom and urinating or doing their bowel movement can be forgotten along with the attendant problems that occur because of it.
Everyone with Alzheimer’s disease does not experience the same problems, but in most cases the problems they experience will get worse or other new problems will occur. Eventually it seems the brain cells are not functioning well enough to keep the person alive, unless they die from some other cause.
Even that could be a function of a poorly operating brain because of Alzheimer’s disease. Because the effects of Alzheimer’s can be so ravishing it is imperative that scientists find a way to detect it early enough to treat it.
Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to increase considerably in numbers as the years go by due to the population aging. The best case scenario is to prevent it from occurring. It is a real challenge.