Chicago Health | Homepage
Brain Drain

Brain Drain

As we age, our brains begin to decline, and problems start to arise

By Eve Becker

The brain is the epicenter of our existence. It controls our thought, memory, motion and reasoning. But as our bodies age, our brains do, too.

As neurons die, regions of the brain begin to shrink. Some people experience a progressive decline into dementia, a condition that can eventually interfere with daily living activities. Everyone forgets things occasionally. We can’t remember where we put the car keys or the name of a former classmate.

But dementia and neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are not a normal part of the aging process. “Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are age related,” says Marek-Marsel Mesulam, MD, director of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The risk of getting those diseases increases the older you get. But that’s not the same thing as saying that age causes these diseases or that they are normal parts of aging. Age is a risk factor, but it is not a cause.”

Risk factors can develop over many years, starting in midlife, says Raj C. Shah, MD, associate professor of family medicine with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “Our brain, with its billions of neurons, is able to tolerate [certain changes] when some of the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular disease or Parkinson’s disease start to accumulate,” Shah says. “But eventually, when enough of these changes happen, those neurons don’t function as well, and we develop thinking, functioning or mood problems.

“We worry about the end point—when somebody has dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease or when they have Parkinson’s disease or when they’ve had a stroke. In reality, those things are the tip of the iceberg. The changes have been going on for decades.”

Researchers are studying what goes wrong in the brain, searching for clues about how to repair it after injury and creating therapies for people with brain damage from stroke or degenerative disorders. Through studies and new developments, they hope to unlock the mystery of the brain, helping people maintain their cognitive and motor functions longer.

The Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Chicago Health focuses on the brain, including articles on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, memory care facilities and the MIND diet, along with other stories about the brain.

Similar Articles

Healing Society’s Soul

Healing Society’s Soul

Physicians sound the alarm for treating gun violence as a public health epidemic By Katie Scarlett Brandt Photo

Integrative Cancer Treatment

Integrative Cancer Treatment

From nutritional therapy to off-label drugs, holistic approaches help patients heal By Kathleen Vyn In this age

Shoot for the Moon

Shoot for the Moon

Cancer initiative spurs research—and already advancements are happening By Laura Drucker In the 1960s, America channeled its

A  Family  Affair

A Family Affair

Battling pediatric cancer By Katie Scarlett Brandt Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo started a tradition in

Cancer Survivorship

Cancer Survivorship

When treatment ends, the healing begins By Julie A. Jacob After Carolyn Nugent was diagnosed with stage

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

March 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
February 26, 2017 February 27, 2017 February 28, 2017 March 1, 2017 March 2, 2017 March 3, 2017 March 4, 2017
March 5, 2017 March 6, 2017 March 7, 2017 March 8, 2017 March 9, 2017 March 10, 2017 March 11, 2017
March 12, 2017 March 13, 2017 March 14, 2017 March 15, 2017 March 16, 2017 March 17, 2017 March 18, 2017
March 19, 2017 March 20, 2017 March 21, 2017 March 22, 2017 March 23, 2017 March 24, 2017 March 25, 2017
March 26, 2017 March 27, 2017 March 28, 2017 March 29, 2017 March 30, 2017 March 31, 2017 April 1, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives