Alzheimer's Disease Essay

2079 words - 9 pages

Alzheimer’s disease or AD is an incurable disorder of the brain that results in loss of normal brain structure and function. In an AD brain, normal brain tissue is slowly replaced by structures called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The plaques represent a naturally occurring sticky protein called beta amyloid and in an Alzheimer’s brain, sufferer’s tend to accumulate too much of this protein. Neurofibrillary tangles represent collapsed tau proteins which, in a normal brain along with microtubules, form a skeleton that maintains the shape of the nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, the tau proteins break loose from their normal location and form tangles. Without the support of these ...view middle of the document...

There are few people who do not worry about getting AD as they get older. Indeed, the incidence of AD increases with each successive year of life after age 60. Currently, scientists estimate that “4.5 million people have AD in America alone and 22 million worldwide” (Willett 63). The disease affects about “five percent of people ages 65 to 74 and nearly half the population of people 85 and older” (“Alzheimer” 1). Disturbingly, the disease is becoming even more common. Statistics now show that the number of people with the disease doubles every five years among older people. Using this as a rule, Dr. Robert Katzman of the University of California “estimates the total could be 45 million worldwide by 2050” (qted in Willett 13).
With these future projections of the incidence of AD, the financial cost of supporting the afflicted will be exorbitant as well. Lifetime societal costs for an individual afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease are “$174,000 in the United States” (Willett 13). The cost to businesses that “lose productivity of their employees who must care for their relatives afflicted with AD is 26 billion”(Willett 13). Economists also state, “the total cost to the United States per year for the care of AD patients is estimated to be 100 billion” (Willett 13). With these kind of costs financially, it is mandatory that public health programs be instated to decrease the onset of the disease. Although there are no comprehensive treatments for the curing of Alzheimer’s, this paper will describe the kind of primary, secondary, and tertiary preventions that will be integral in future directions for a population-wide program in controlling the disease.
Firstly, as is true for all diseases in public health, implementations of primary preventions are the most effective and cost-efficient of all programs against the disease. With this, there is a growing body of evidence that supports the theory that the maintaining of a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition, and keeping physically and mentally active, can go a long way in the prevention of AD. For instance, when it comes to nutrition, countries “such as China, Japan and Nigeria, […] [who have] a reduced fat and calorie intake compared to the United States and Western Europe […] showed a lower incidence of AD by approximately 50%” (). Also, specific foods have been recognized to be likely contributors to greater or lower risk of developing the disease. A high intake of fish, green vegetables, citrus fruits, liver and whole grains have been shown to decrease the risk of the disease because of the Omega-3 fatty acid, folic acid, Vitamin E and antioxidants they contain which prime the brain against Alzheimer’s. Conversely, the Omega-6 fatty acid in foods like margarine, butter and other dairy products has been shown to increase the risk of the disease. Moreover, poor nutrition results in elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and low folate levels; all of conditions which have shown to...

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