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
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
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
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
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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