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How Does Alzheimer’s Affect the Brain?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, which presents with degradation of memory, difficulty with communication, language, time and recognition of familiar people. Alzheimer’s disease is an aging process, which affects the brain in various ways. Alzheimer’s often progresses with time and results in increased brain impairment and memory loss. As Alzheimer’s disease worsens, the person may withdraw and develop behavioral isolation from family and society.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition that affects the brain and disrupts thinking and memory. It can even end up killing brain cells. The impairment and effects caused by Alzheimer’s can lead to various symptoms, which show that Alzheimer’s affects the brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5 million people in the United States.

How Does Alzheimer’s Affect the Brain?

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease, which is also known simply as Alzheimer’s, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease. Alzheimer’s disease usually starts slowly and develops with time. It has been observed to be the cause in most cases of dementia. The commonest symptom of Alzheimer’s that develops early is short-term memory loss, or the inability to or difficulty in remembering recent events or other details.

Alzheimer’s affects specific part of the brain to begin with, which can interfere with cognition and behavior of a person. Certain symptoms like issues with language, mood swings, disorientation, behavioral issues and lack of management of self care, might also develop, appear, or worsen with the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease. With progression of Alzheimer’s, it affects greater areas of brain, resulting in more complaints.

What Causes Alzheimer’s?

While it is believed that Alzheimer’s affects the brain, the cause of Alzheimer’s is poorly understood. However, about 70% of the risk involved is believed to be genetic in nature, involving many genes. Other risk factors currently known are depression and head injuries. Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain with development and occurrence of tangles and plaques in the brain. The initial symptoms produced by Alzheimer’s are often mistaken for the effects produced by normal aging. However, these symptoms worsen later on and reveal the presence of Alzheimer’s.

How Does Alzheimer’s Affect the Brain?

Alzheimer’s disease is neurodegenerative in nature, which means, it affects brain cells in a destructive manner. This disease destroys brain cells, leading to various psychological issues and secondary problems. It is important to know how does Alzheimer’s affect the brain.

The various theories on how Alzheimer’s disease affects your brain, have resulted in following considerations.

Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain by Formation of Plaques

As an effect of Alzheimer’s disease, a protein or amyloid, gets deposited in the brain. These are present in forms of clusters, which stick and interrupt the brain signals. This affects the normal functioning of the brain.

Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain Due to Impaired Nutrition

In Alzheimer’s, a protein called ‘tau’ is deposited in microtubules in normal brain tissues. These microtubules are important for normal functioning of the brain and for transporting nutrients to the cells. As Alzheimer’s disease affects these areas, the brain cells that fail to receive nutrients eventually die out.

Exchange of Information in Brain is Affected in Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease also greatly affects the transmission and exchange of information inside the brain. The process of thinking and memory depends on the transmission of signals among and across the neurons. Alzheimer’s affects the brain by interfering with the signal transmission within the cells, activity of neurotransmitters or brain chemicals. This results in faulty signaling and affects the brain, resulting in impaired ability to communicate, learn and remember.

Alzheimer’s Disease Affects Memory

Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain, causing significant damage to the hippocampus of the brain, which plays an important role in the memory process. Alzheimer’s disease causes shrinking of the hippocampus, which affects the ability of the brain to create new memories and recall them.

Alzheimer’s Disease Results in Inflamed Brain Cells

Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain in a way that the brain cells recognize the amyloid plaque as cell injury. This stimulates an inflammatory reaction, which results in further damage to the brain cells. Thus, Alzheimer’s disease can also affect the brain resulting in inflamed brain cells.

Alzheimer’s Disease Can Affect the Brain Size

The Alzheimer’s disease, when advanced, affects the brain, causes shrinking in size and structure of the brain. In advanced Alzheimer’s the surface layer which covers the cerebrum degrades and shrinks. This massive damage to the brain, greatly affects a person’s ability to recall, plan ahead, and concentrate.

As a patient’s condition worsens due to this disease, they are likelier to withdraw and develop behavioral isolation from family as well as society. As Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain, bodily functions are gradually lost, and the condition ultimately leads to death. It is believed that Alzheimer’s disease begins affecting the brain long before the condition is diagnosed. While the speed of the development of this disease can vary, the average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease ranges from three to nine years.

While there are no current actual medications or supplements known to decrease the risks of this disease, regular mental exercise, physical exercise, diet rich in healthy fats and weight management may turn out to reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s disease. While some treatments may be able to improve upon the symptoms for a while, none can reverse or stop its progression. As Alzheimer’s disease continues to affect the brain, patients increasingly rely on other people for assistance.


  1. “Alzheimer’s Disease: Overview.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447
  2. “Alzheimer’s Disease Information Page.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Alzheimers-Disease-Information-Page
  3. “Alzheimer’s Disease.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/alzheimers-disease
  4. “Alzheimer’s Disease.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/alzheimersdisease.html
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 21, 2023

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