Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
It is the most common form of dementia, and makes up 60-80 % of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s Disease is not a normal part of aging, although often seen as the known risk factor for increasing in age, as the majority of people with the disease are generally over 65 years of age. However, it is not just a disease of old age, since up to 5 % of suffers have early onset which can appear when people are in their 40s or 50s.
In the early stages, memory loss is mild, however, as the disease progresses individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation, or respond to their environment. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. The average range of survival from onset is about 8 years, but can span to 20 depending on age and health conditions of those who have the disease.
There is no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. The treatments can slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s.
The most common early symptoms is remembering newly learned information because the disease changes the way the brain learns. As the disease progresses it leads to increasingly severe symptoms including disorientation, mood and behavior changes, deepening confusion about events, time and place, unfounded suspicions about family and friends and professional caregivers, more serious memory loss and behavior changes, and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
Microscopic changes in the brain begin long before the first signs show, such as memory loss. The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell connects with many others to form the communication networks, and each network has a special job. Some networks involve thinking, learning and memory, while others may help us to see, hear, smell, feel and move.
To do their job, brain cells work like tiny factories, receiving supplies, generating energy, constructing or removing. Cells also process and store information and communicate with other cells. The body keeps everything running through coordination, as well as using large amounts of fuel and oxygen. When Alzheimer’s Disease takes hold, the cell’s work and the factory has issues and breakdowns, backups and problems. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain. Some of this may be due to Plaques, which are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that build up and block the spaces between nerve cells. And Tangles, which are twisted fibers of protein called tau, which build up inside the cells. Alzheimer’s sufferers tend to develop more than normal of these protein buildups, disrupting the processes that cells need to survive. The death of these cells causes memory failure, personality changes, and the inability to carry out simple daily tasks.
Notes from the Naturopath:
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex condition with multiple factors that increase the risk.
To reduce your risk:
• Protect your brain from head trauma. Invest in good helmets for contact sports such as football or boxing, or riding sports such as horses or motorcycles. Pay the extra for the best quality, well-fitting helmet, and your brain is worth it.
• Exercise helps prevent Alzheimer’s. Choose an activity you can commit to and one you enjoy. 28 days is all it takes to make a new activity a habit, so commit to this exercise for at least a month, then stick to the routine for life.
• Social engagement helps prevent Alzheimer’s. Staying socially busy is important to keep stimulated and connected to help protect your brain from stagnation and boredom.
• Healthy diet helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as well as many other diseases later in life. Cutting down on sugar, trans fats, processed foods, and increasing your daily doses of Omega-3, green, white, or black tea and fresh fruits and vegetables have shown multiple benefits to the health of your brain.
• Mental stimulation helps to keep the little grey cells working. Games, puzzles and multi-tasking challenges have shown to improve cognitive functions and keep a brain from losing flexibility in the neuropathways. Learn something new, like a foreign language or musical instrument, read challenging books and take up new hobbies have also shown great improvements in cognition.
• Sleep quality is also directly related to brain health. Insomnia and disrupted sleep is one of the major causes in Alzheimer’s disease. If you are sleep deprived and it is slowing down your thinking and affecting your mood on a daily basis, you are likely to be at greater risk of developing the symptoms of this disease.
• Keep Stress at a minimum, since stress can play a big part of the general aging and shrinkage of your brain, resulting in the hampering of new cell growth. Relaxation and stress relief is not only a healthy pursuit but may also help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
• There are a few other habits that are worth giving up in order to protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease, such as smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. Watch your weight, since extra pounds can increase the risk factors, as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Metro Integrative Pharmacy has many aids to help you get better sleep, lose weight, stop smoking, reduce stress and increase energy, and they are all natural, non-harmful products to help you in the prevention of this disease. Please talk to our Practitioners about the best choices for your personal journey.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. The information in this article is for educational purposes only.