Jerome Silberman, otherwise known as Gene Wilder, was a beloved film and theater comic actor, screenwriter, director and producer who passed away on August 29, 2016 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. At DeRosa Medical, we know that many lives have been affected by those afflicted by this degenerative, progressive disease and want to take this opportunity explain and expound on the many aspects of this deadly disease.
Nearly 100,000 people per year die in the United States as a result of Alzheimer’s disease and that may be just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), what is written as cause of death on a death certificate is what is used as a statistic in reporting cause of death. The deceased may well have had Alzheimer’s, but the doctor may list any number of other causes. Those causes include pneumonia, coronary disease, diabetes and stroke, just to name a few.
As reported in 2013, 84,767 people died from Alzheimers. A recent study suggested that the number of deaths from “complications” of Alzheimers may be five to six times higher than what is actually reported. As a general rule, older patients also suffer from other medical conditions that may cause death other than Alzheimers.
According the Alzheimer’s Association, abnormal deposits of plaques, (clusters of protein fragments) and tau (rhymes with wow) tangles (twisted tangles of proteins) creates an environment where nutrients and other essential supplies can no longer move through cells causing the cells to not properly function and eventually die.
Scientists have identified other Alzheimer’s brain abnormalities, including:
- Loss of connections among brain cells responsible for memory, learning and communication. These connections, or synapses, transmit information from cell to cell.
- Inflammation, triggered by the body’s immune system
- Eventual death of brain cells and severe tissue shrinkage
Over time, Alzheimers destroys the nerve connections in the brain that progressively make it difficult for the afflicted to swallow, move, and feed themselves. Some even forget to eat or don’t remember they have eaten, even after just having digested their meal.
The vast majority of patients die from pneumonia. This happens as a result Alzheimer’s not being able to remember how to swallow properly thereby, causing food or liquid to enter the windpipe and move into the lungs, resulting in pneumonia.
Because Alzheimers is a progressive degeneration of the brain, symptoms usually become more apparent to those around the sufferer. One of the first symptoms is memory loss, proceeded by the loss of ability to carry on conversation and respond to activities surrounding them. Some people even go through a personality transformation where they can become moody or violent. Disorientation as to time and place, and difficulty speaking are also early warning signs. Alzheimers may not be the only reason a person has loss of memory, so it is vial that their physician rules out other possibilities.
The Top Ten Early Warning Signs of Alzheimers
(gathered from the Alzheimers Association)
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
10) Changes in mood and personality
Those with Alzheimers live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others. If a cure for Alzheimers is not found by 2050, it is expected that someone in the U.S. will develop this disease every 33 seconds.