Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

St. John’s University pharmacology graduate Ellen Scharaga of Melville, NY, serves as the senior vice president of operations at OncoMed Pharmaceutical Services. Outside of her career, Ellen Scharaga enjoys reading, walking, and providing charitable support to medical research and awareness organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America not only works toward more effective disease treatments and preventive methods, but also promotes awareness of the disease and early signs of onset. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disorder affecting neurons in the brain. As cells die and certain neurons fail to connect properly, functions of the brain become impaired and eventually cease. The hippocampus, for example, is one of the first areas affected, which leads to the loss of short-term memory, a classic symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with memory loss, early signs of the disease include difficulty completing basic tasks (such as brushing teeth), struggling to finish sentences or make appropriate word choices, and confusion about the time of day and location. Because the disease is classified as degenerative, it is important to contact a primary health care provider in order to take action as soon as possible.