Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that begins with memory loss and eventually leads to dementia and death. In the United States, it affects up to 10 percent of people over the age of sixty-five and almost half of those over eighty-five. Scientists predict that in the coming years, these percentages are likely to rise. Such an increase, combined with the rapidly growing size of the older population, could very well result in an epidemic of Alzheimer's cases.
Alzheimer's disease targets a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is the seat of memory and intellect. In a person with Alzheimer's, the neurons in the hippocampus become entangled. The resulting formations, often called plaque, results in the loss of brain cells, especially those that make memories and retrieve old ones. And memory problems characterize the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
In the beginning stages of the disease, people will experience some mild memory problems. They may struggle with complex tasks like planning a party or balancing a check-book. As the disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember events that occurred very recently-say the day before, or even just a few hours prior to the present time. Memory loss at this point looks more and more like dementia: affected people may not recognize others close to them or be able to recall appropriate words. Eventually, complete dementia sets in. Personal memories disappear and, with them, the ability to recognize beloved people and places. Functional memories also become irretrievable. The person forgets how to perform daily functions, which include getting dressed, brushing the teeth and using the toilet. Hallucinations or episodes of violence often attend this stage of the disease. At this point, it is rarely possible for a family member or a close friend to look after the sufferer, who needs twenty-four-hour-a-day care.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
- Try LifeSource's Brain Connector & Memory Enhancer, it has shown great help with this condition.
- Regular exercise will keep blood flowing to the brain. A daily walk in the morning sunlight can also do wonders for your spirits.
- If you're trying to prevent Alzheimer's, keep yourself active and learning. A lack of mental engagement may be connected to the loss of brain function.
- Avoid sources of aluminum and mercury. Some food sources of aluminum were listed earlier, but you must also read the labels on antacids, diarrhea medications, buffered aspirin, deodorants, and douches. You may want to consider having dental fillings composed of a silver-mercury amalgam replace with a non-toxic substance.
- Simple routines are quite helpful to many people in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer's. Make a schedule for your day, and plan to perform more complicated tasks during the hours when you usually feel your best.
- Although it is very difficult to face the inevitable, many people with Alzheimer's feel much better when they plan ahead. If you work out your legal and financial arrangements now and discuss your wishes for the future with your family, you may find that you can enjoy a stronger sense of peace and well-being.
- If you are the caregiver of a person with Alzheimer's, you probably need some help. Contact local support groups to find low-cost assistance with transportation, meals, and even daycare for the elderly.
Many disorders cause symptoms that are quite similar (or even identical) to those of Alzheimer's. Before your doctor makes a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, make sure that he or she rules out the following possibilities:
- Heart Disease
- Allergies, either food or environmental
- Metabolic disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies of vitamins B12 and folic acid
- Brain tumor
- Not keeping mentally active (by reading, etc.)
- Head injury
- Drug abuse
In addition, certain pharmaceutical medications, whether alone or in a combination, can cause significant memory problems, disorientation, and even dementia. Bring a list of all your current medications, including over-the-counter drugs (better yet, bring all the pill bottles with their labels), to your doctor so that he or she can examine them for potential side effects.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer's, largely because no one is quite sure of the cause. Heredity certainly plays a factor, but as with most inherited diseases, a certain gene probably does not result in Alzheimer's all on its own: it is likely that environmental causes must be present as well. The most promising research into Alzheimer's has discovered that free radicals (the unbalanced molecules that destroy or damage cells of the body) play a significant role in the disorder. Since we know that good nutrition and herbal therapies effectively prevent and fight much free radical damage, it's wise for anyone in the early stages of Alzheimer's (or who has a family tendency toward the disease) to follow recommendations given here. Environmental toxins seem to be an important factor as well. Although the link between Alzheimer's to toxins like aluminum and mercury has not been firmly established, it is certainly prudent to avoid these poisonous substances as a preventative measure. In addition, stress appears to be a major factor with the development of this disease. Many researchers also feel that prolonged elevation of the stress hormone cortisol is a major causative factor. And finally, an elevated level of the protein metabolism by-product homocysteine is known to contribute to Alzheimer's disease.
Although there is distressingly little that conventional medicine can do for Alzheimer's sufferers, it is very important to see a doctor if you think you may have the disease. One reason is that many elderly people take several different medications at once, and these combinations often result in memory loss, confusion, or even dementia--- side effects that can easily be mistaken for those of Alzheimer's. The first step for anyone suffering from memory problems should be a rigorous examination of prescription and other drugs. Furthermore, the symptoms of Alzheimer's mimic those of several other disorders that are quite treatable; many people believe they have Alzheimer's are actually suffering from depression, hypothyroidism, B12 or folic acid deficiency, or other conditions. Only after your doctor has ruled out all other possibilities will he or she make a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. If your doctor diagnoses you with Alzheimer's after just one or two visits, make an appointment to see someone else-preferably a doctor with a strong background in geriatrics or neurological disorders. If you do have Alzheimer's, it is important to work with a good specialist. Although there's no cure, there are ways to help you improve your health, comfort, and independence.
Natural therapies should be employed to prevent or slow down the disease and to improve life quality.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease. Its symptoms are listed here in the order they usually occur.
- Memory problems
- Confusion and disorientation
- Mood swings
- Inability to manage basic tasks
- Inappropriate behavior
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Episodes of violence and rage or childlike passivity
Although researchers are not yet sure what causes Alzheimer's, it is likely that a combination of the following factors plays a significant role in the disease.
- Genetics (including elevated homocysteine levels)
- Free radicals
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially of vitamins B1, folic acid, and B12
- Environmental toxins, especially aluminum and mercury
- Chronically elevated cortisol levels
Eat a wholesome diet of basic, unprocessed foods. Because conventionally grown foods often contain toxins, buy organic whenever possible. If organic food is unavailable or too expensive, wash your food thoroughly before eating.
The antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E will combat damage from free radicals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of antioxidants, so have a couple of servings at every meal. For vitamin E, add wheat germ to salads, cereals, or juices. Nuts and seeds are other good sources of this vital nutrient.
The consumption of fish is very important. Salmon, halibut, cod, sole, and others are healthful sources of DHA, an essential fatty acid involved in brain function and GPA, which reduces inflammation.
A deficiency of the B-complex vitamins can both cause the disease and imitate its symptoms. Brewer's yeast is a potent source of B vitamins, as are wheat germ, eggs, and spirulina.
Use turmeric as a spice hen preparing foods.
Many people with Alzheimer's are found to be deficient in zinc. To boost your intake, snack on pumpkin seed regularly.
To improve circulation, increase energy levels, and detoxify your body, drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours.
Eat plenty of fiber to keep toxins moving through your digestive tract and to prevent them from taking up residence in your body. Whole grains, oats, and raw or lightly cooked vegetables are good sources of fiber that are also nutritionally dense.
If you're older, your digestive system may not be able to absorb nutrients as well as it used to. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are easily absorbable and packed with the vitamins you need, so have several glasses daily.
Foods to Avoid
If you have Alzheimer's or have a family tendency towards the disease, it is imperative that you stay away from all foods containing toxins and additives. Eliminate processed and junk food from your diet. Alcohol and excessive caffeine are also too toxic for you to consume.
We never recommend drinking tap water, but in your case, it is even more important that you avoid it. Tap water is full environmental contaminants, including those that are linked to Alzheimer's.
It may surprise you to learn that many foods, especially baked goods, contain aluminum. Read all food labels carefully. Don't use self-rising flour, choose nonaluminum baking powder, and avoid pickling salts. You'll also need to avoid food cooked in aluminum pots and pans, as well as beverages that come in aluminum cans.
Sometimes food allergies cause reactions that are similar to the symptoms of Alzheimer's. See the Food Allergies section and the elimination diet discussed there, to determine whether you're allergic to any foods.
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