Alzheimer's causes are factors and conditions that cause senile dementia of the Alzheimer's type or AD. This is a type of dementia in which a person gradually loses his memory and personality traits, degrading to absolute helplessness. According to statistics, every 70 seconds one person in the world becomes ill with them. Knowing the causes of the pathology would reduce the percentage of cases or even prevent dementia. But the debate on what causes AD is still ongoing.
The beginning of a detailed study of the disease was laid by the psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer. Watching his ward with dementia, he described the pathology and tried to find the cause of this phenomenon. Today we are still continuing the search. Several hypotheses have been put forward, one of which is heredity. Intravital and post-mortem studies of patients have shown a relationship between gene mutation and disease risk.
Scientists suspected a connection between AD and Down syndrome. People with the syndrome get Alzheimer's more often than before. In general, AD is a problem of the older age group, most often it occurs in people 40-65 years old. But with Down syndrome, the disease affects under the age of 30 years. Researchers suspected that the reason may lie in the "breakdown" of 21 chromosomes. And they found confirmation of this. But in addition to the 21 chromosomes, it was found that the disease occurs with a mutation of 1, 14 and 19 chromosomes.
Mutation of genes can be inherited. Guesses were backed up by observations of statistics. About 10% of patients with a family history have an ancestor with AD. Today it is believed that in a family where one parent is sick, the risk of getting a child is 50%. If both are ill, it is almost a 100% chance that the heir will have dementia.
But the “breakdown” of genes means only a predisposition to dementia. So there must be other factors that increase this risk. In addition, hereditary dementia is only 10% of all patients. To find out what happens to the remaining 90% is the main task of psychiatry, neurology and medicine in general.
A German group of scientists has established a link between Alzheimer's disease and psychotrauma. In the course of studies, it turned out that in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and AD patients, the level of FMN2 was reduced. It is a protein that helps cells maintain their structure and function. As a result of traumatic situations, the amount of FMN2 decreases, which causes a cognitive impairment.
A group of specialists from Göttingen conducted laboratory studies on this theory. In mice with reduced FMN2, the symptoms of PTSD and Alzheimer's disease actually increased with age. Such observations have revealed another factor that increases the risk of dementia. Also, tests of some drugs showed their effectiveness in improving memory in old animals. But the theory of psychological trauma is only one of the factors, but not the root cause of the disease.
Dementia of the elderly is also considered by psychosomatics. Theories of this field are not taken seriously by most scientists. But since there is no single reason, it makes sense to study all possible aspects. Psychosomatics believes that dementia is an attempt to escape from the world. With the progress of dementia, a person does not really take part in life, cannot be responsible for himself or his actions. From this point of view, progressive dementia is the result of great responsibility or unjustified expectations. It is believed that people who criticize themselves and their surroundings are more prone to AD.
One of the authors on the topic of psychosomatic theory - Liz Burbo - put forward her assumption about the cause of the disease. Liz is a philosopher and psychologist. She believes that dementia is an attempt to manipulate others and free themselves from any responsibility. The hypothesis may seem true if you look at the patients. They are often irritable, tearful, unable to do something themselves. But this is rather the result of disturbances in the brain, and not their cause.
Bourbo wrote a book on the psychosomatics of Alzheimer's. It states that BA appears in those who were very active in their youth, tried to remember everything. Such intellectual activity, combined with unjustified hopes, causes dementia. So says Liz and her followers. If you study the rest of the hypotheses, Burbo's theory looks like an amateur guess.
Studies show that the active brain stays healthy longer, and non-intellectual workers are more at risk of AD.
But it is also proven that severe psychological upheaval, depression and frequent neurosis lead to the loss of connections between neurons. Because of this, logical thinking and a sense of reality are reduced.
The study of the causes of dementia begins at the molecular level. This gives hope to establish a "reference point", the root cause of the disease. So far, scientists have come to the conclusion that AD is a multifactorial disease. In one case, it can be caused for one reason, in the other for another. Of the main hypotheses of Alzheimer's disease, amyloid, tau hypothesis and cholinergic are distinguished.
All patients with AD show a reduced level of acetylcholine. This is a neurotransmitter, a microscopic structure due to which an electrical impulse passes between the cells in the brain. With acetylcholine deficiency, nerve cells cannot exchange momentum with each other and neighboring tissues. Because of this, motor function, vision, memory, abstract and logical thinking are disturbed.
Having discovered this pattern, scientists have created a number of drugs that maintain the desired level of acetylcholine. Symptoms in patients with such therapy become less pronounced, but this does not stop the disease. So, there are other causes of the disease.
This hypothesis is considered the main among other assumptions. Alois Alzheimer, when opening his ward with BA, discovered protein deposits in the brain. The study of this phenomenon showed that there are two types of protein that is deposited in the brain tissue: amyloid and tau protein. Amyloid is a complex of proteins and polysaccharides, it is involved in metabolism at the cellular level. Normally, this substance is divided into smaller parts and consumed by the body.
In impaired metabolism, too long amyloid fragments appear that do not dissolve and are deposited in the hippocampus and other parts of the brain.
Such clusters are called plaques. Due to the formation of protein plaques, calcium also accumulates in the brain tissues. This disrupts the connection between neurons, and cells that are unable to interact die off. Attempts to rectify this situation have so far failed. Even to diagnose the accumulation of plaques is impossible without opening.
Another type of protein that is deposited in the brain is tau. In a healthy body, it plays an important role as a membrane for living cells. Tau protein is also insoluble, otherwise it would not be able to fulfill its barrier function. In patients, this component is collected in "balls", preventing the cells from exchanging momentum. The result is the same - the death of neurons and the loss of synapses. What exactly leads to a violation in protein metabolism remains unknown.
Trying to discover the root cause in the etiology of the disease, scientists were able to compile a list of factors that increase the risk of AD. They are conditionally divided into correctable, non-correctable and conditionally correctable.
This group of factors includes those circumstances that threaten dementia, but it is impossible to correct them. Among them:
- Old age. Young people, children and adolescents do not have acquired dementia. Most often AD occurs after 65 years, rarely before this age. And up to 40 years - almost never. With age, the flexibility of the psyche and the brain as a whole decreases. Therefore, people with a predisposition and aged 60 or more have a very high risk of disease.
- Female. Men face this type of dementia 2-3 times less often than women. This is due to the fact that women live longer and more often fall into the field of view of doctors. Men are more likely to hide the disease.
- Traumatic brain injuries. Any head injuries can affect dementia in old age. But if a person has had such cases, this does not mean that he will necessarily face a loss of memory.
- Deep psychological shock. As we have already found out, mental trauma can also change the structure of the brain. The duration of the trauma does not matter.
This also includes low intellectual activity throughout life. The importance is the presence of education, and the work of intelligence in his youth. To prolong the “youth” of the brain, it is important to train it: learn poetry, learn new technologies, crosswords, hobbies. Reading is not a part of prevention.
In this group are those aspects that can be corrected. Basically, there are diseases that cause oxygen starvation of cells. These include:
- elevated levels of fat in the blood;
- diseases of the respiratory system;
- cardiovascular diseases;
- high blood pressure.
These pathologies create "favorable" conditions for dementia. Their treatment will prevent risk factors.
There are factors that we can control on our own. Often we pay attention to them only when the disease already gives the first signs.
To prolong mental clarity, intellectual and physical activity is recommended. It is necessary to be engaged in a spiritual component and a body from youth, but by the age of 40 it is especially necessary. Training the mind and muscles saturates with oxygen, improves blood circulation, creates new neural connections.
Risk factors include obesity. It harms all human organs and systems. When overweight, the heart works worse, blood vessels clog, the respiratory system works more difficult. The accumulation of fats in the blood directly threatens to block neurons. A relationship with high blood sugar and asthma was also identified. Those who eat less sweets keep their brain functioning longer.
Bad habits, such as smoking, increase the "chances" of senile dementia. Dementia is especially fast in addicts of alcohol and hard drugs. Substances clouding the mind do this by blocking capillaries and blood vessels. The result is oxygen starvation and a gradual loss of neural connections. It is possible to prolong physical and intellectual youth due to an interesting and active life.
It is important to constantly nourish your interest and thirst for knowledge, learn languages and know-how. Technology is especially good at stimulating the transmission of signals between nerve cells. It is useful to study the operation of telephones, applications, programs. Add quality nutrition and exercise here - and the risk of dementia will decrease even for those who are predisposed to it.