Alzheimer’s disease, which is commonly referred to as the AD, is a very dangerous progressive neurological disease characterized by such early symptoms as short-term loss of memory, disorientation, significant problems with language, confusion with time as well as place, withdrawal from work and various social activities, emotional apathy, and many others. Despite the fact that Alzheimer’s disease affects neurological system, as it is a chronic neurodegenerative disease, it always has devastating impacts on the entire body. The given paper aims to identify and evaluate the effect of Alzheimer’s disease on other bodily functions. In other words, the research paper will review how Alzheimer’s disease results in pathophysiological changes in at least two systems of a human body. Moreover, much attention will be paid to the influence of genetics, age, gender, ethnicity, and behavior on Alzheimer’s disease as well as diagnosis and treatment of the AD.
Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease on Body Systems
It is rather important to emphasize the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is poorly understood even in the 21st century, because the opinions of the researchers concerning the main causes of the disease vary drastically (Morrison & Lyketsos, 2005). For instance, the majority of the researchers in the sphere of healthcare assure that genetics and genes are the major risk factors that stimulate the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the statistics provided in numerous research studies, the genetic heritability of the disease is very high as it ranges from 50% to almost 80% (Foster, 2004). On the contrary, the critics of this idea assure that head injuries, hypertension as well as obesity and depression are the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease (Foster, 2004).
To begin with, Alzheimer’s disease negatively influences neurological system of human, because it is characterized by the death of neurons and synapses in cerebral cortex and other regions (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008). The researchers in the sphere of medicine have proven that healthy human brain of adult individuals consists of approximately 100 billion neurons together with branching extensions that are responsible for memory, sensations, emotions, and, finally, skills. However, Alzheimer’s disease interferes with effective functioning of neurons and synapses (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008). Because Alzheimer’s disease is classified as the disease of central nervous system, it damages functioning of a brain and spinal cord. According to the estimations of the researchers, the majority of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease face serious problems connected with learning, speaking, and memory (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008). As the Alzheimer’s disease progresses, intellectual functions of a sick person, his/her mood, personality, emotions, and feelings are considerably affected. At the early stages of disease progression, patients with Alzheimer’s face very subtle problems that in the majority of cases are associated with executive functions and activities of brain, such as attentiveness, abstract thinking, critical thinking, flexibility, and even impairments in semantic memory (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008). Therefore, the first stage of development of Alzheimer’s disease that is usually called pre-dementia is characterized with apathy as the most widespread persistent neuropsychiatric change of a human body. Alzheimer’s disease has a devastating effect on central nervous system, because it leads to deterioration of nerve cells, impedes the quick and qualitative transmission of impulses, and deprives tissues of the human brain from effective work. Consequently, because of shrinking vocabulary and degrading word fluency patients with Alzheimer’s disease are deprived of the opportunities to write and speak (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008). Moreover, people diagnosed with the AD have problems with numerous motor functions, especially dressing, drawing, and walking. Because Alzheimer’s disease completely ruins central nervous system of humans, patients with the AD become dependent on caregivers and their assistance, since as this incurable disease progresses, they lose numerous functions, including even reading and writing skills. Thus, Alzheimer’s disease completely ruins central nervous system, which is the main system of a human body (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008).
According to the statistics provided in medical research studies, Alzheimer’s disease has potentially devastating effect on respiratory system of a patient. Shallow breathing, decreased intake of oxygen, and, finally, apnea and aspiration are typical for people suffering from the Alzheimer’s disease (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008). For instance, apnea or, in other words, intermittent pauses from breathing during sleep, results in the decreased amounts of oxygen reaching the blood inside a human body. As a result, because of significant decreases in oxygen intake, human brain and many other vital organs fail to function appropriately (Engelhardt & Laks, 2008).
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Finally, the researchers have successfully estimated that the third body system that Alzheimer’s disease severely affects is neuromuscular system (Buchman & Bennett, 2011). Recent research studies and neurophysiologic testing prove that patients with moderate and advanced stages of progression of Alzheimer’s disease lose functions of their motor units (Buchman & Bennett, 2011). For example, patients with moderate Alzheimer’s disease experience an increased risk of falling. Moreover, people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease fail, in the majority of cases, to perform the simplest tasks independently because this disease completely deteriorates muscle mass and mobility of humans (Buchman & Bennett, 2011).
Impact of Genetics, Gender, Age, Ethnicity, and Behavior on Pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s Disease
Despite the fact that Alzheimer’s disease usually affects people after 65 years old, such factors as gender, age, genetics, and, finally, behavior impact the development of this disease (Carter, Resnick, Mallampalli, & Kalbarczyk, 2012). Despite the fact that gender differences are not fully investigated and understood, the researchers have concluded that Alzheimer’s disease affects women in both prevalence as well as severity. The researchers provide convincing arguments that age and gender are two predominant risk factors for the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease (Carter et al., 2012). Research studies in the USA and abroad provide convincing arguments that gender influences the disease occurrence. Therefore, family history of Alzheimer’s disease, behavior, and even low number of years of education are included to the list of risk factors that affect the progression of the disease (Carter et al., 2012). However, regardless the fact that the majority of people with the AD are females, scientists argue whether it is due to a significantly larger longevity of women compared to men. In general, the majority of studies prove that female and male individuals have almost the same risks of Alzheimer’s disease at any age (Carter et al., 2012). Male patients with Alzheimer’s disease usually become more physically, verbally, and sexually aggressive with the progression of the disease. On the contrary, female patients with the AD become more reclusive, depressed, and emotionally unstable (Carter et al., 2012). Furthermore, according to the estimations of the researchers, age is one of the greatest risks for Alzheimer’s disease. In spite of the fact that this incurable disease usually affects people after 65, males and females may suffer from it even under the age this age. After a person reaches the age 65, the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years. Therefore, one of six individuals in the USA has Alzheimer’s disease. Genetic inheritance of Alzheimer’s disease is not a rare occasion. Recent investigations of genetic background of Alzheimer’s disease prove that despite subtle effect of genetics on Alzheimer’s disease, certain mutations of genes are responsible for transmittance of Alzheimer’s disease (Carter et al., 2012). For instance, individuals who have inherited at least one copy of the APOE e4 Allele face the increased chances of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the future. However, it is rather important to note the fact that people usually inherit not Alzheimer’s disease, but the increased risk (Carter et al., 2012).
Finally, the researchers who have investigated the risk factors connected with Alzheimer’s disease emphasize that ethnicity and behavior are other important factors that increase the risk of development and progression of this chronic neurodegenerative disease (Manly & Mayeux, 2005). For instance, the researchers assume that Latinos and African-Americans in the USA are usually at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, because of the higher rates of vascular disease among these populations (Manly & Mayeux, 2005). Available data indicates that Hispanic populations are approximately 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease comparing to white people (Manly & Mayeux, 2005). A number of research studies that have compared the percentages of the AD development among various ethnicities residing in the USA prove that Native Americans have significantly lower chance of prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in comparison to white populations (Manly & Mayeux, 2005). Another epidemiological study of the elderly population with more than 4 thousand participants, 55 % of whom are African Americans, provides information that the rate of Alzheimer’s disease on admission to nursing homes is notably higher among black residents in comparison to white residents of these healthcare facilities (Manly & Mayeux, 2005). Finally, human behavior and lifestyle may impact the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease as well. For instance, such health conditions as heart problems, excessive levels of cholesterol, and obesity heavily increase the risks of Alzheimer’s disease. Because of this reason, doctors recommend people to adopt healthy lifestyles, do continuous physical exercises, avoid negative habits, and, finally, follow a healthy balanced diet with the purpose to decrease the risks of this neurodegenerative disease (Manly & Mayeux, 2005).
Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
An abundant experience of the researchers engaged in the sphere of medicine proves that Alzheimer’s disease may be diagnosed with the help of complete and thorough medical assessment (Morrison & Lyketsos, 2005). It is important to note that there is no single test or experiment, showing whether an individual has this disease. In general, diagnosing the AD foresees detailed medical evaluation, especially examination of medical history, testing of mental status, accurate physical, and neurological examinations. Moreover, there are other additional medical tests ruling out the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (Morrison & Lyketsos, 2005).
Because there is no effective cure for the disease, the researchers differentiate pharmaceutical, psychosocial, and, finally, caregiving methods of treatment. Nowadays tactine, rivastigmine and, finally, galantamine are the most common types of medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease (Morrison & Lyketsos, 2005). However, critics of medications assure that benefits from traditional types of medications are insignificant, because the results of experiments have shown no delays in development and progression of the disease (Morrison & Lyketsos, 2005). Furthermore, many professionals in the field of medicine insist on the effectiveness of behavioral, emotion-oriented, cognitive-centered, and stimulation-oriented interventions and treatments. To begin with, behavioral treatments are primarily aimed to contribute to the overall functioning of various body systems (Morrison & Lyketsos, 2005). Secondly, emotion-oriented treatments encompass a wide range of therapies, especially supportive psychotherapy and reminiscence intervention. Thirdly, cognition-oriented intervention is aimed to enhance mental abilities of patients with the AD. Finally, stimulation-oriented interventions include numerous recreational activities, especially art, music, physical exercising, and pet therapies (Morrison & Lyketsos, 2005).
Figure 1. Mind map for Alzheimer’s disease.
As a result, having evaluated the effect of Alzheimer’s disease on several body systems, analyzed the impacts of genetics, gender, ethnicity, age, and behavior on pathophysiology of the disease, and identified effective methods of treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, it is possible to infer that this progressive neurodegenerative illness negatively impacts central nervous system as well as neuromuscular and respiratory functions of a human body. The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are increased confusion, disorientation, mood swings, problems with reading, talking, and writing, significant difficulties while performing spatial tasks, and serious problems with short-term as well as long-term memory. Genetics, gender, ethnicity, lifestyle, age, and behavior influence the development and progression of the disease. Despite the fact that there is no effective cure for Alzheimer’s disease, healthy lifestyle, physical exercising, balanced diet, caregiving, numerous psychological interventions, and traditional medications may increase the quality of life of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their longevity.