Alzheimer's Disease - Detailed Info



Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurologic disease of the brain that leads to permanent loss of neurons and logical abilities, including memory and reasoning, taking a form stern enough to obstruct social or professional performance. A large population witnessed the slow deterioration of the mind of their loved ones through Alzheimer's as they grow in age. It is the most common form of dementia and causes steady loss of memory and judgment, difficulty in concentrating and changes in personality.  This disease besides affecting the mind of the person, affects every aspect of a person's life. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, approximately 5 million people in United States are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the sixth most widespread cause of death in the United States that caused roughly 74,600 deaths in year 2007. Deaths from Alzheimer's disease have risen by 68% from 2000 to 2010.

Alzheimer's disease is also known as Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type (SDAT). Dementia was earlier considered as disease of the aging however this form of dementia is evident in even younger individuals at an upsetting rate. This is mainly due to static lifestyles, poor diets, long-term chronic stress and other environmental factors. During this disease, plaques and tangles are developed within the brain structure causing the brain cells to die. Patients suffering from Alzheimer's are also deficit in the levels of some critical brain chemicals which are involved with the transmission of messages in the brain, neurotransmitters. Protein tangles known as tau amasses strangle neural synapses that obstruct the vital flow of neurotransmitter and electrical signals needed to form memories and personality.

In November 2012, researchers from the University of California reported at the yearly convention of RSNA (the Radiological Society of North America) that people leading dynamic and active lifestyles are more expected to decelerate the progression of Alzheimer's disease whilst active people who are free from Alzheimer's have a lesser risk of developing the disease or any kind of dementia. Though many factors play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease including static lifestyles, maladjusted behaviors, mood changes, lack of stimmulent congnition, genetics and exposure to toxins, some nutritional deficiencies might also augment the risk of the disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease can sometimes be difficult to diagnose since each patient experiences unique signs and symptoms. Also the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are very much similar to many other conditions and diseases. Many doctors use 7 stages of diagnostic framework since most patients take from 8 to 10 years to advance through all the seven stages.
Stage 1: No cognitive impairment.
Stage 2: Very mild cognitive impairment. Individuals are aware that they are having memory lapses, such as misplacing keys, forgetting familiar words. There are no deficits obvious to friends, family or co-workers.
Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline. Others begin to notice deficiencies, clinically measurable loss of retention of reading material.
Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline – Mild or Early stage AD. Clear-cut deficiencies, such as knowledge of recent events, impaired math ability, difficulty with complex tasks, forgetting one's own history, withdrawal from challenging situations.
Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline – Moderate or mid stage AD. Major gaps in memory and deficits in cognition, difficulty with day-to-day functioning.
Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline – Moderately severe or mid stage AD. Memory continues to worsen, personality changes may emerge, the need for assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), disruption of sleep cycle, incontinence, significant personality changes, wandering.
Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline – Severe or late-stage AD. Loss of ability to respond to environment, speak, and ultimately to control movement.Life expectancy

The main cause why Alzheimer's disease cuts downs people's life expectancy is not typically due to the disease itself but due to complications that arise from it. Since patients become incapable of taking care of them, the development of any illnesses such as an infection, are more expected to swiftly get worse. It becomes harder for the caregiver to identify complications since the patient gradually becomes less able to tell about the poor health, illness or pain. Examples of ordinary complications which may result in death of patient with severe Alzheimer's disease are pneumonia and pressure ulcers.

Causes or Risk Factors of Alzheimer's disease

There are numerous factors which are considered to be associated to an increased risk of developing the disease.

Age - Risk of developing Alzheimer's doubles every five years after the age of 65. Even though Alzheimer's is largely a disease associated with the old age, some young individuals may also develop it. The Canadian Medical Association Journal stated that the risk of developing Alzheimer's between ages 65 to 74 is 1 in 100, ages 75 to 84 is 1 in 14 and age over 85 is 1 in 4.

Family history – Studies reveal that people who have a close family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have a slightly higher risk of developing the disease. Merely about 7 percent of all incidents are linked with genes that lead to the early onset inherited familial form of the disease. And those who do become heir to the condition, it may onset at an earlier age.

Down's syndrome - People having Down's syndrome possess an additional replica of chromosome 21, which holds a protein that is present in the brain of people with Alzheimer's. Since such people have a huge amount of this protein as compared to others, their risk of developing the Alzheimer’s disease is more.

Mild cognitive impairment - A person who is suffering from mild cognitive impairment has memory problems. The memory of the patient is poorer than that of other healthy people of the same age. It has been found that a high percentage of people with mild cognitive impairment develop Alzheimer's. However astonishingly, a UK study revealed that people with mild cognitive impairment are at lesser risk of developing dementia than earlier thought.

Atrial fibrillation - It is muscular twitching and lack of coordination in the atria of the heart. A study conducted on more than 37,000 patients noted a strong association between atrial fibrillation and the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Risk factors of Heart disease - People under the risk factors of heart disease such as high blood pressure or hypertension, high cholesterol and poorly controlled diabetes, also have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. It is called a lifestyle factor and eating a well balanced nutritional diet, doing regular exercise and taking proper sleep will likely eliminate these factors. At times these factors have nothing to do with lifestyle, in such cases proper control and treatment of the condition helps reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Processed foods and fertilizers – The results of a study done by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital established a considerable relationship between increased nitrates levels in environment and food and increased mortality rate from diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's. The study gazed at gradual increases in human introduction to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines through processed and preserved foods plus fertilizers.

Stress – Stress can also increase the likelihood of developing the disease. Some researches have already highlighted a potential link between chronic stress, cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer's.

Fructose and Insulin Level - ‘A high fructose diet over the long term alters your ability to learn and remember information,’ says research leader, Fernandez Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery. Fructose intake in the body must be kept below 25 grams per day. This toxic effect is serving as the chief controller of brain toxicity. Since the intake by regular person is beyond this recommendation by 300 percent, thus this is a persistent and serious issue. Try to maintain fasting insulin levels less than 3. This is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance.

Other diseases and conditions – Some other diseases and conditions that have been associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's are some chronic inflammatory conditions, historical episodes of clinical depression, strokes or mini-strokes and obesity.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Mental & Physical Exercise Daily - Many researchers have shown that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the damage associated with Alzheimer's disease. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's.
Research also shows that people with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1alpha in their brains - the production of which is increased by exercising daily - and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's.

Coconut Oil - It is among the most touted solutions for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The power of coconut oil is normally associated with repairing and restoring the brain health. Ketones act as an alternative energy source for brain cells when brain cells have difficulty using glucose which is common in patients with dementia.  Coconut Oil helps the body in production of ketons. The body when metabolizes medium-chain triglycerides derived from coconut oil, it forms ketones that may defend against and even reverse Alzheimer’s.

Marijuana - Marijuana has been found to yield better results than drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. A study carried out by Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology established the potential benefit of psychoactive component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in addition to preventing AChE-induced amyloid ß-peptide (Aß) aggregation. In other words, cannabinoid molecules contained in cannabis could avert the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and ward off plaque upsurge in the brain. Many drugs available in the market today, deal with symptoms of Alzheimer’s by aiming and inhibiting the AChE enzyme, a neurotransmitter. This results in reduced levels of AChE, thus consequentially results in reduced symptoms.

Coffee – In a paper published this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease exhibited that higher caffeine levels in plasma were linked with a diminished or postponed onset of dementia. This is assumed to be due to coffee intake. This study provides the former direct proof that caffeine or coffee intake is related with a decreased risk of dementia or delayed onset.

Cinnamon – A study has made evident the benefits of cinnamon bark inhibiting the compounds found in the plaque formations of Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. Other studies have also found that the aroma and taste of cinnamon affects the concentration, memory and other intellectual qualities almost rapidly. The studies used cinnamon gum and when investigated against other scents including jasmine, peppermint, and cherry, only cinnamon was revealed to increase memory scores.

Eat a nutritious diet – Diet rich in folate and natural brain foods should be included in nutrition plan. Many foods like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, anthocyanin in berries, greens, and nuts, vegetables and fruit sourced flavonoids, improve memory and brain performance. Strict vegetarian diets have discovered to increase the Alzheimer's risk, while diets high in omega-3s reduce the risk. However, vegetables are best form of folate and one should eat ample of fresh raw vegetables every day. Antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid may also help protect the body from dementia. Foods mainly rich in antioxidants are berries, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, mangoes, papaya, guava, apples, red grapes, plums, tomatoes, leafy greens, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash. Eat a host of fresh fruits and vegetables regularly to achieve maximum benefits. Diets rich in fish can lower your chances of getting Alzheimer's disease. Several forms of fish that are healthy for the brain and can keep memory sharp are tuna, mackerel and salmon but one should also watch for heavy metal toxicity in them.

Olive Oil - The Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation suggests that 20 percent of the calories in the diet are received from healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil so as to help prevent Alzheimer's. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation affirms that healthy fats may boost the functions and health of the brain.

Blueberries and Spinach - Blueberries are a super food that is high in nutrients such as antioxidants that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and other diseases. Blueberries have antioxidants vitamin E and C and also several other nutrients that can help to reduce deterioration caused by free radicals and thereby slowing the aging process and lowering memory loss. Plant foods such as spinach can decrease inflammation that worsens brain function. The Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation affirms that since spinach has so many vitamins and minerals, it is also a super food.

High-quality omega-3 fats - High intake of the omega-3 fatty acid such as krill oil is linked with improved heart health and brain function. It helps by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thus delaying its progression and lowering the risk of developing the disorder.

Vitamin E – Even though scientists are careful about stating with any sureness that vitamin E may have preventive effects on Alzheimer’s disease, but recent studies have demonstrated promising results. According to Reuters, elderly people who take more vitamin E in their diet may be at a lesser risk for the degenerative disease. Scientists discovered this in a study that assessed the effects of vitamin E over a longer period of time. The research signifies that to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, vitamin E should be one of many vitamins that should be included in the diet. Natural sources of vitamin E are greens including mustards, turnips, collards, kale, chard, and spinach; sunflower seeds, almonds, bell peppers, papaya and avocado.

Vitamin B12 - Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease, which may have its onset originating from a lack of vitamin B-12 inhuman body. An infant is born with serum levels of B-12 at roughly 2,000 pg/ml. This level often drops progressively all through life, due to adherence to common Western diet. The vitamin is heat sensitive, thus normal cooking can wipe out up to 90 percent of its worth. Even though animal and dairy products are a prevalent source, the natural soil microbes and bacteria found on wild food such as unwashed garden plants are generally sufficient to cater many of body’s vitamin B12 needs. Vitamin B12 is water soluble, so if taken in excess the body will simply excrete the excess and there are no proven side effects. Each unit increase of vitamin B12 reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 2 percent. Very high doses of B vitamins have also been discovered to cure Alzheimer's disease and limit memory loss.

Vitamin D - Vitamin D may, help vacuum out plaques in the brain linked with the Alzheimer's disease. It may help avert and even reverse the upsurge of amyloid beta plaques in the brain that are linked with Alzheimer's disease. According to recent researches, deficiency of vitamin D has been assumed to play a role in both Alzheimer's disease and age-related memory problems.

Zinc-Rich Foods - Zinc is a mineral required by body in trace amounts for healthy cell metabolism, immune system function, wound healing and senses of taste and smell. Increasing zinc intake may improve the memory. As human body cannot retain zinc, so it must be consumed daily. Foods rich in zinc are oysters, beef, pork, chicken, lobster and fortified breakfast cereals and foods with moderate amounts of zinc include yogurt, milk, cheese, beans, almonds and oatmeal.

People following western diet may not get sufficient nutrients the body needs every day. Therefore, it is recommended to take vitamin and mineral supplements daily. Taking the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E everyday together with Coenzyme Q10 is recommended for memory function.

Herbs for Alzheimer's Disease

Gingko Biloba - shows the best evidence for treating early Alzheimer's disease. If you are taking blood thinning medication, use ginkgo only under the supervision of your doctor.
Ashwaganda - Researchers at the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), have conducted studies on mice that suggest ashwaganda extract can reverse memory loss and improve cognitive abilities in those with Alzhiemer's disease.
Ginseng - Studies have shown that it reduces cell death in Alzheimer’s disease in animal studies.
Lemon balm -Professor Elaine Perry of the University of Newcastle tested the effect of balm on the enzyme and receptors responsible for helping the molecule acetylcholine transmit nerve signals.
Cat’s Claw - Studies show that it dilates blood vessels, which makes it helpful for who don’t get enough blood flow and therefore oxygen in their brain cells.
Brahmi - Used in Ayurvedic medicine, it improves brain function and learning.