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WHAT IS ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia can be described as an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting brain function. These symptoms may include memory loss and struggling with thinking, problem-solving or language difficulties. Moreover, these symptoms can become severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. A person with dementia may also experience changes in mood or behavior.  

Unfortunately Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible and destroys brain cells, causing thinking ability and memory to deteriorate. This destructive disease is not a normal part of aging. Sadly, when the brain cells begin to degenerate and die, the brain begins to shrink in some regions.

When people suffer from Alzheimer’s, the brain begins to accelerate a protein build up. Thus forming structures called 'plaques' and 'tangles'. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue.

Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the symptoms become worse and more severe as the brain deteriorates. 

 

The Negative Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease:

Memory loss. Examples:

 

·      Losing items (ex. keys, glasses) around the house

·      Forgetting appointments, anniversaries or other important dates

·      Forgetting about recent events or conversations

·      Forgetting someone’s name

·      Struggling to find the right word within a conversation

·      Getting lost in a familiar place

 

Cognitive and Functional Abilities:

A person’s ability to understand, think, remember and communicate will be affected. This could impact a person’s ability to make decisions, perform simple tasks, or struggling to follow a conversation. Sometimes people lose their way, or experience confusion and memory loss, initially for recent events and eventually for long-term events. Repeating sentences can also happen.

 

Visual Abilities:

The disease can lead to problems such as judging distance or seeing objects in three dimensions; navigating stairs or parking the car become much harder.

 

Emotions and Mood Change:

A person may appear unmotivated and lose interest in favourite hobbies. Some people with Alzheimer’s become less expressive and withdrawn from friends and family.

Behavior:

A person with Alzheimer’s may have reactions that seem out of character. Some common reactions include repeating the same action or words, hiding possessions, physical/verbal outbursts and becoming restless or irritated.

Physical Abilities:

The disease can affect a person’s coordination and mobility, to the point of affecting their ability to perform day-to-day tasks such as eating, bathing and getting dressed.

 

Risk Factors

Age

Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's! The disease mainly affects people over 65. Above this age, a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease doubles approximately every five years. One in six people over 80 have dementia.

Family History

Another great risk factor is family history. Those who have a parent, brother, sister or child with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease themselves. The risk increases if more than one family member has the illness. When diseases tend to run in families, either heredity (genetics) or environmental factors, or both, may play a role.

 

Alternative Treatments 

In recent years, a growing number of natural remedies, dietary supplements and “medicinal foods” have shown positive results when promoting memory enhancement and helping to delay or prevent Alzheimers disease and related forms of dementia.

 

Caprylic Acid

Caprylic acid is the active ingredient of Axona, which is marketed as a “medical food.” Caprylic acid is a medium-chain triglyceride (fat) produced by processing coconut oil or palm kernel oil. The body breaks down caprylic acid into substances called “ketone bodies.” The theory behind Axona is that the ketone bodies derived from caprylic acid may provide an alternative energy source for brain cells that have lost their ability to use glucose (sugar) as a result of Alzheimer’s. Glucose is the brain’s chief energy source. Imaging studies show reduced glucose use in brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s.

 

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10, or ubiquinone, is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the body and is needed for normal cell reactions.

Coral Calcium

Coral calcium supplements have been heavily marketed as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and other serious illnesses. Coral calcium is a form of calcium carbonate claimed to be derived from the shells of formerly living organisms that once made up coral reefs.

Coral calcium differs from ordinary calcium supplements only in that it contains traces of some additional minerals incorporated into the shells by the metabolic processes of the animals that formed them.

Gingko Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is a plant extract containing several compounds that may have positive effects on cells within the brain and the body. Ginkgo biloba is thought to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, to protect cell membranes and to regulate neurotransmitter function. Ginkgo has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and currently is being used in Europe to alleviate cognitive symptoms associated with a number of neurological conditions.

Huperzine A

Huperzine A is a moss extract that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It has properties similar to those of cholinesterase inhibitors, one class of FDA-approved Alzheimer's medications. As a result, it is promoted as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Research has linked certain types of omega-3s to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

Research has also linked high intake of omega-3s to a possible reduction in risk of dementia or cognitive decline. The chief omega-3 in the brain is DHA, which is found in the fatty membranes that surround nerve cells, especially at the microscopic junctions where cells connect to one another.

Theories about why omega-3s might influence dementia risk include their benefit for the heart and blood vessels; anti-inflammatory effects; and support and protection of nerve cell membranes.

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a kind of lipid, or fat, that is the primary component of the membranes that surround nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s disease and similar disorders, nerve cells degenerate for reasons that are not yet understood. The theory behind treatment with phosphatidylserine is its use may shore up the cell membrane and possibly protect cells from degenerating.

Tramiprosate

Tramiprosate is a modified form of taurine, an amino acid found naturally in seaweed. Amino acids are the chemical building blocks of proteins.

Although some of these remedies and dietary supplements may be beneficial for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and some forms of dementia, it is crucial to consult a physician before using them.