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World Alzheimer's Day

World Alzheimer’s day takes place on the 21st of September. But what exactly is Alzheimer’s?

Over half a million people in the UK have Alzheimer's and over 32 million people worldwide. What many people may not realise is that dementia is actually an umbrella term covering several conditions, including Alzheimer’s that lead to the symptoms of dementia. Alzheimer's is a consequence of an abnormal shrinkage of the brain. This affects every brain function and causes significant changes, in particular regarding behaviour and interpersonal relationships.

The first signs of this disease include difficulty remembering. For example, the day, the place or recent events, or even depressive behaviour. Alzheimer’s and a decline in mental health are highly associated together.

To understand dementia, we need to look at the brain. An immensely difficult task. Brains are made of neurons, axons, lipids, and support cells. The human brain has 86 billion neurons which is more than the number of stars in the Milky Way and 850,00 kilometres of axons.

When it comes to the brain, we have just scratched the tip of the iceberg. Even though we know extensively what each region does. This is why we don’t know the exact mechanism behind dementia but have observed widespread changes in the brain.

In Alzheimer’s disease, which is responsible for 70% of the cases of dementia, we see the build-up of amyloid plaque proteins and a protein called tau that builds up inside the neurons forming neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles eventually lead to neuronal death. With the death of these nerve cells, the brain begins to shrink. This happens first in the hippocampus. Neuronal death leads to the hippocampus wasting away and the support cells in this region becoming enlarged. The hippocampus is the region of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, with symptoms worsening over time. From the hippocampus, the rest of the temporal lobe is the next to be affected leading to issues with speech processing. The frontal lobe is next where our personality and higher thinking and emotions are stored. Last is the motor and sensory part of the brain in the parietal and occipital lobes.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not fully understood. It is believed to be connected with increasing age, depression, and lifestyle. There is no cure for Alzheimer's but there are medications available to help try and alleviate symptoms.

The 2022/23 tour begins this month, secure your tickets to The Post Mortem Live by clicking here!


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