Most people are afraid of losing their mental capacity as they grow older. Not without justification - after all, the number of people affected by dementia and, in particular, Alzheimer's disease has steadily increased in recent years. This seems to be one of the prices we pay for our increased life expectancy.
Overview: Alzheimer's dementia
One thing is common to all of the more than fifty types of dementia of various causes: they are accompanied by a constant loss of mental ability. Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common form of dementia - an estimated 1.2 million people are affected in Germany.
And: their number is expected to double - by the year 2050. These figures are extremely explosive, since not only are the patients themselves affected, but in many cases also the relatives who take care of them.
For this purpose, more and more care facilities are needed, which are adapted to the special needs of people with dementia. This means that both financial solutions need to be found and a rethinking of society is needed to raise public awareness of the disease, which remains taboo.
Causes of dementia
In a few areas, so much research has been done in recent years than on dementia. Many new things were found, some of them already rejected. The exact genesis mechanisms of Alzheimer's dementia are still not completely deciphered. The search for the causes is complicated by the fact that the diagnosis can in principle only be made after death in autopsy, whereas in his lifetime this is only a suspected diagnosis.
What is for sure, is that the risk of Alzheimer's dementia after the age of 60 increases rapidly. Among those over 85, one third to one quarter are affected. Many scientists therefore do not see Alzheimer's dementia as a disease in the true sense of the word, but rather as the final state of life, which is only reached at different times (or not at all due to death).
Typical for Alzheimer's
Typical of Alzheimer's disease are deposits of protein chips in the brain called amyloids. Presumably, these fibrils or plaques interfere with the exchange of information between nerve cells - they atrophy and die after a while.
However, it is now believed that there must be other mechanisms, because the characteristics of these plaques do not correlate with the severity of the disease and vice versa, these changes are found in brains of healthy people. There is also a heritable susceptibility to contracting Alzheimer's disease.