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 Alzheimer's Dementia

Beat it to stay mentally young
A challenge to overcome

In America there are more than two million people affected by it. It is a major cause of nursing home admissions.

There are 25 million people with various backgrounds throughout the world affected by this devastating condition.

There are different types of dementias, but Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause and probably the most difficult one to treat.

What is the cause of Alzheimer's disease?

The actual cause is unknown but there are theories contributing to its development. The nutritional theory is based on free radical damage to the brain cells causing cellular degeneration and cortical atrophy. There are studies to show that oxidative stress which increases with age is a major cause for Alzheimer's dementia. Brain cells seem to be more sensitive to free radical assault and oxidative stress. Patients with Alzheimer's disease have low levels of antioxidants. These patients improve dramatically when they are given good doses of antioxidants. Prescribing vitamin E not only increases the blood supply to the brain but also acts as a potent antioxidant. It also augments the effect of other vitamins such as Vitamin C and A.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in April 1997 revealed that vitamin E supplementation in Alzheimer's patients could considerably slow down the advancement of the disease 5.

Many of my colleagues with interest in nutritional medicine recommend high doses of vitamin E and relevant super nutrients for this condition with great success.

Toxins and heavy metals such as aluminium, lead, mercury and cadmium are detrimental to the brain cells and augment the free radical damage. Aluminium has much been incriminated in the progression of Alzheimer's dementia.

Cigarette smoking is quite harmful to the brain and so is drinking excessive amount of alcohol.

Inflammation and high homocysteine levels are amongst other causes.

Another theory is the reduction in cholinergic activity, which is responsible for memory loss due to hippocampus plaques and atrophy. Other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, somatostatin and glutamate are also reduced. This is most likely due to the reduction in blood flow and low oxygen and glucose activity.41

Stress

Unresolved stress can expedite aging of the brain, as it increases cortisol output, which can lower learning ability and memory. Brain cells are dependent on glucose for their daily functions. Cortisol prevents the influx of glucose into the brain cells and hippocampus (memory centre), and hence brain cells are unable to produce energy. Studies have shown that people with high levels of cortisol have more memory loss than normal individuals.

What are the symptoms and signs of Alzheimer's disease?

Forgetfulness or amnesia is one of the earliest symptoms, which will become more frequent and severe with time to the extent that the person cannot perform ordinary tasks. The affected person may not remember the name of familiar objects or recent events. This will be accompanied by confusion, pacing and wondering from home and getting lost on the way back. Speech may become less articulate trying to remember words thus having difficulty to enjoy a meaningful conversation. Arithmetic, reading and writing will deteriorate and the patient may develop behavior changes. In a sense the person will become isolated. As they become less active physically and mentally, feelings of depression, anxiety, worry and grief will ensue.

How is the diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia made?

A qualified medical practitioner who takes a detailed history, and conducts physical examination, memory testing, blood tests and brain scan makes the diagnosis. The blood test, chest X-ray and CT scan are also useful to exclude other causes of dementia. A CT scan may reveal cortical atrophy, dilated lateral ventricles and widened sulci.

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