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Whiplash » Alzheimers disease and whiplash

Alzheimers disease is caused by parts of the brain wasting away, which damages the structure of the brain and how it works. The medical name for wasting away is atrophy.

The atrophy mainly affects the cerebral cortex, which is the layer of grey matter that covers the brain. Grey matter is responsible for processing thoughts.

Plaques and tangles

As the cerebral cortex wastes away, clumps of protein, known as plaques and tangles, start to form in the brain. The plaques and tangles start to destroy more brain cells, which makes the condition worse. They also affect the neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain).

Risk factors

It is still unknown what actually causes the deterioration of brain cells, although there are several factors that are known to affect the development of Alzheimers disease. These are described in more detail below.


Age is the greatest factor in the development of Alzheimers disease. The likelihood of developing the condition doubles every five years after you reach 65 years of age. However, it is not just older people who are at risk of developing Alzheimers disease.

Family history

Alzheimers disease can also be inherited (run in the family), although the risk is only marginally higher than that of someone who has no family history of the condition.

In cases where Alzheimers disease is inherited, the symptoms may start to develop at a relatively early age (between 35 and 60 years of age).

Downs syndrome

People with Downs syndrome (a genetic disorder that affects physical appearance, as well as the ability to learn and develop mentally) are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimers disease.

This is because people with Downs syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, which contains a protein found in the brain of those with Alzheimers disease. Therefore, people with Downs syndrome have a higher-than-average amount of this protein, which could contribute to developing Alzheimers disease.

Whiplash and head injuries

People who have had a severe head injury, or severe whiplash (a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways), have been found to have a higher risk of developing Alzheimers disease.


Aluminium is a naturally occurring substance found in food and plants. It is also added to products, such as pans, packaging and medicines. The body only absorbs a minimal amount of aluminium, which is usually passed out of the body in urine.

It has been suggested that aluminium could be a possible cause of Alzheimers disease because research found that the plaques and tangles in the brain contain aluminium. However, further research has failed to prove a link between aluminium and Alzheimers disease.

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