Study Finds Signs of Alzheimer’s in 20-Year-Old Patients

In a recent post, we examined a Mayo Clinic study linking a toxic protein in the brain to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Though commonly associated with senior citizens, Alzheimer’s is no longer just for the elderly. A study conducted by Northwestern University and reported on Yahoo! by Cassie Shortsleeve recently discovered that patients as young as 20 may begin exhibiting signs of early onset Alzheimer’s.

Amyloid protein, a sticky, toxic protein that clumps in the brain and binds to neurons, inhibits neurons from performing their memory storage and retrieval functions. The prevalence of amyloid protein in the brain has long been suspected as being the root cause of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Northwestern University study found that amyloid begins clumping in brains of even “normal” young people.

The researchers dissected 50 brains as part of the study. Approximately one fourth belonged to healthy young people as young as 20, one third belonged to people over the age of 70 without dementia, and one quarter belonged to people over the age of 60 with Alzheimer’s. The amyloid brain scans showed that amyloids began clumping in the brains of the healthy young people despite their age. While clumping was more prevalent in the brains of older Alzheimer’s patients, this study revealed that the disease may begin early and progress very slowly before being detected by doctors.

The researchers hypothesize that neurons are susceptible to amyloid clumping at any age, and that while most of the more drastic clumping occurs in old age, the substance needed to form the clumps is present at any age, with the susceptibility to form clumps worsening over time. While there has been an increasing focus on Alzheimer’s research as of late, science has not yet conquered the disease. Treatment options do exist to slow the progression or lesson the symptoms, but no cure is yet available.

In addition, while scientists may be able to determine what makes individuals more susceptible to Alzheimer’s (such as a greater concentration of amyloids), scientists do not know how to prevent the onset of the disease. One of the biggest predictors of Alzheimer’s is one’s general health. Several other health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and pulmonary disease go hand-in-hand with Alzheimer’s.

The results of this study are shocking but helpful. Because amyloids are present in even young individuals, it is imperative to take care of yourself. Doctors recommend that people maintain a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in protein, fruits, and veggies with modest amounts of whole grains. Doctors also recommend a daily exercise routine. Research has shown that even walking has improved mental capacity. Doctors also recommend training the brain. Individuals who challenge themselves with puzzles, memory games, or analytical problem solving activate spheres of the brain, leading to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Finally, doctors recommend that people think positively. Research has shown that negative thoughts actually impact neural function and cognitive organization.

Despite the ramifications of this study, Alzheimer’s disease remains largely a dilemma for older persons, many of whom live in nursing homes. Alzheimer’s sufferers are especially vulnerable to nursing home abuse because the cognitive issues caused by the disease may prevent them from either recognizing abuse or reporting it.

Nursing home abuse can take many formats. These include physical injuries, emotional trauma caused by verbal attacks, neglect, confinement, intentional or negligent financial abuse, sexual abuse, and intentional deprivation of necessities. Because an individual with Alzheimer’s may be unable to detect or report abuse, it is important to recognize key signs of abuse. These include signs of physical injury such as bruises and cuts, depression, antisocial activity, unexplained loss of money, poor hygiene, bedsores and pressure ulcers, weight loss, signs of fear or paranoia, and arguments witnessed between the caregiver and patient.

Nursing home abuse can be hard to detect. Caregivers often spend large quantities of unsupervised time with the patient, during which they may be abusing the patient. However, when friends or family members are present, the caregiver appears nurturing and caring despite signs of abuse. It is not your job to investigate the abuse. If you suspect a loved one with Alzheimer’s is being abused at a nursing home, contact the New York nursing home lawyers at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC today, and we will investigate your claim for you.

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