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Alzheimer's and How to Prevent it

Louisville, KY

Everywhere at the End of Time: a 6½ hour long album on the 6 stages of dementia, gradually becoming more disturbing as it goes. Pleasant, almost nostalgic music soothes your ears in stage 1, and by stage 6, your head aches from the distorted, tuneless sound. Whether dementia feels the way this album makes you feel, the effects of dementia are despairing. About 1 in 9 people over the age of 65 are affected by Alzheimer’s, a common type of dementia. When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is fatal, and there is often little that they can do.

Though Alzheimer’s is common, there is much undiscovered, such as the causes, the gene functions, and an effective cure. However, by understanding science and research done so far, we can understand how to better prevent the disease.

Healthy neurons are constantly communicating with nearby cells. The more communication within a brain, the more neural patterns that are formed. An electrical charge begins in the cell body of a neuron, then travels through the length of an axon to the synapse at the end of a cell. This is where cell communication happens, however, cells don’t actually ever touch. Instead, in between the synapse and the dendrites (receptors) of another cell, there is a tiny gap in which chemicals travel through to be attracted to another cell.

In Alzheimer’s, however, in the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus, these synaptic gaps are clogged up by proteins called amyloid betas, as shown in the picture below. Normally, amyloid beta plays an essential role in neural growth and repair, however, due to the inability to be cleaned up, they often accumulate and stop neurons from communicating with each other. Many other factors may play into this role, such as a protein called tau that tangles neurons from the internal structure, or the inability for microglia to properly do their job of clearing away waste within the brain.

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Photo of tau (blue wires inside the neuron), and amyloid betas (small clumps surrounding the neuron)

When Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, it usually means there is nothing to do to reverse the process, especially the older and farther they are into the disease. Although there is no known cure, there are studies that show that one’s lifestyle can affect their chances of getting Alzheimer’s.

Studies have shown that the more active one is, the more brain activities they do, and the more educationally involved they are, the lower of a chance they will have of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. A peculiar nun study had focused on the lifestyle of catholic nuns: being involved in prayers, meditations, education and teaching, and physical activities. They found that these lifestyles, regardless of a nun’s genetics, helped prevent Alzheimer’s from taking over their brain and spreading.

What can you do to prevent Alzheimer’s within yourself:

  • Have a balanced and healthy diet.

  • If your family has a genetic history of Alzheimer’s, take a genetics test.

  • Be physically active.

  • Meditate.

  • Don’t underestimate education! Learn new things, read more books, play challenging games.

Reading is a great way to fight off Alzheimer's - start by checking out more of Stem-E's Awesome Events!

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