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Elder Care Professionals Discuss Alzheimer’s & Its Effects On The Brain

Sep 5, 2017 by Shannon Meller

We’re back again with Part 3 of our five-part series for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month!  Today, we will be exploring the brain to learn exactly what goes on in our heads as Alzheimer’s develops.

In case you missed it: Part 1 | Part 2

Parts To Note

That squishy pink mass in your skull is one of the most complex organs in your body, as well as one of the most powerful.  Various maps can show you its many intricate features, but today our elder care team will be concentrating on the:

  • Cerebrum: the biggest portion of your brain responsible for problem solving, thinking, feeling, and recall (or remembering)
  • Cerebellum: a smaller portion of your brain located towards the back of the skull that is responsible for balance and coordination
  • Brain Stem: connects the brain to your spinal cord and is responsible for automatic functions such as breathing or digesting
  • Cortex: a layer of the cerebrum that controls certain functions of the body, and is mapped out as four lobes that are responsible for different body functions

These parts of your brain are nourished by blood that is pumped up from your heart- about 20% of your entire body’s supply!  20% of the oxygen you breathe in is also used by the brain to power itself.

Getting The Signals

In addition to blood vessels, the brain is also made up of billions of neurons that branch out across it in order to carry signals to their respectable sections.  Brain signals are like tiny electrical charges that tell the brain what to do, and allow it to form memories, thoughts, and feelings.  They travel down your neurons until they reach the synapses (where each cell connects) and let out a burst of chemicals known as neurotransmitters, that then carry the signal further to other cells.  This is where Alzheimer’s hits its hardest.

Alzheimer’s Course On The Brain

There is power in numbers when it comes to the amount of healthy neurons and synapses in your brain.  However, when Alzheimer’s begins to set in, these numbers drop drastically overtime.  This is due to the formation of plaques and tangles.

  • Plaques: clusters of protein fragments that have clumped together between synapses
  • Tangles: strands of protein fragments that twist around neurons

Plaques and tangles typically follow the same pattern of development and progression, although the amount of time it takes to complete this pattern various from person to person.  When they form, they disrupt normal brain function by forcing the signals down an abnormal path or preventing them from going anywhere at all.  When sections of neurons then go unused, they die out and begin to rot.  It is this aspect of Alzheimer’s that makes it a true killer of the brain.

Those in their earliest stages of Alzheimer’s have a development of plaques and tangles that start to form in areas responsible for learning, memory, thinking, and planning.  Changes in behavior or personality are minimal and tend to go unnoticed.  It isn’t until the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s that anything more serious is noticed, and most individuals get a diagnosis.  Presence of the proteins spread to sections that help control speaking, the understanding of speech, and spatial awareness.  It is at this point elder care professionals begin to get involved.  By the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the majority of your brain’s cortex is seriously damaged.  In fact, if has gotten so damaged from dying or rotting tissue that it starts to shrink dramatically.

Alzheimer’s, Elder Care, and You!

It is a heard-wrenching site to see a brain ravage by Alzheimer’s.  In order to support research so we can better understand its effects on the brain, and how to better prevent or stop them, join us at our Walk To End Alzheimer’s event!  You can donate or simply bring awareness.

September 17th
Henry Maier Festival Park
200 North Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Registration at 8:00 am 
Ceremony at 9:30 am 
Walk at 10 am

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