The ability to think is quite remarkable, and one that we often take for granted. It enables us to make decisions, to express our concerns, to giggle at our favorite jokes, to share memories, to express our love for one another…
And yet, here we are: every 66 seconds, this is taken away from someone in the United States. They develop Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), one of the most common forms of dementia that largely affects those of advanced age through memory loss and eventually mental functioning. With no cure, medications can only be administered to slow the progression of the disease.
As the brain itself wither’s away, so do the memories. When the memories are gone, so are the people attached to them. When your loved ones are gone, you are alone… isolated in your own mind.
“Death before death,” coined by Joey Comeau, was the feeling shared by caregivers of AD individuals, in which they mourn the loss of their loved one twice; once when their memory dissipates and again when they have physically passed.
Amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are the primary roots of the mind trap that is AD. Because of the plaques and tangles, neurons are unable to properly communicate with each other, which can lead to neuron death and brain atrophy.
A recent study linked the development of AD (through measuring plaques and tangles) to overnutrition. Overnutrition has many connections to other co-morbid complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. AD shares a couple traits with these disease states, including its processing of insulin and its response to stress on the body.
In AD, overnutrition leads to insulin resistance. The insulin degrading enzyme is not able to function properly, which leads to the buildup of Amyloid beta-plaques. Overnutrition also induces neuronal stress, particularly within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). This stress activates the RTK pathway, leading to an increase in tau levels, thus more neurofibrillary tangles. ER stress also induces pro-inflammatory cytokines, perpetuating malfunctioning pathways and the cycle of stress on the brain.
While efforts continue in search of a cure, proper diet and exercise are a great way to reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
[featured image is original art by author]