Alzheimers is the most common form of dementia among older people. It involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities.
How Common Is Alzheimer's Disease?
What Causes Alzheimer's?
How is Alzheimers Diagnosed?
Best Treatment Options
Can It Be Prevented?
What Should You Do Next?
People with Alzheimer's disease have abnormal clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (neurofibrillary tangles) in their brains. Nerve cells are lost in areas of the brain that are vital to memory and other mental abilities. There also are lower levels of chemicals in the brain that carry complex messages back and forth between nerve cells (neurotransmitters). Alzheimers may disrupt normal thinking and memory by blocking messages between nerve cells.
- Up to 4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's.
- The disease usually begins after age 60, and risk increases with age. While younger people also may get Alzheimer, it is much less common.
- About 3% of men and women ages 65 to 74 have Alzheimers, and nearly half of those age 85 and older may have the disease.
- The number of people with Alzheimer's disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- The cause is not known. While the incidence of Alzheimers increases with age, it is NOT a normal part of aging.
- There may be a genetic component.
- Hyperhomocystinemia is an independent risk factor for the development of cognitive dysfunction. High homocysteine levels are significantly correlated with low levels of the nutrients folic acid, pyridoxine (B6), and cobalamin (B12)
- Circulating levels of DHEA (an adrenal hormone) decline with age and a relationship has been suggested between lower DHEA levels and heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, AIDS, and Alzheimer's disease.
- Altered taurine metabolism has been found in patients with Alzheimer's disease, and it is thought this abnormality might contribute to the characteristic memory loss. Also, taurine levels in cerebrospinal fluid were decreased in patients with advanced Alzheimer's disease.
- Defective mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (energy production in cells) may play an important role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
- Beta amyloid. One of the leading theories in Alzheimer's disease is related to the fact that the cells in the brains of people with Alzheimers produce way too much beta amyloid, especially an unusually "sticky" variant of the protein. The excess production of beta amyloid protein apparently forms the characteristic plaque deposits that accumulate in the brains of AD patients. When these beta amyloid plaque deposits grow larger, they trigger an inflammatory reaction in the brain's immune system that begins to kill surrounding brain cells.
- Cholinergic neurons (nerve cells which respond to the brain chemical acetylcholine) in the cerebral cortex are the primary site of cellular degeneration in Alzheimer's disease, causing a decline in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which regulates many memory-related functions. There is also evidence that other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine may also be negatively affected in Alzheimer's disease.
- Aluminum: Some, but not all, studies suggest that an accumulation of aluminum in the brain may be linked to Alzheimer's disease. One hypothesis suggests that aluminum induces production of free radicals, which generate an inflammatory response that may affect Alzheimers progression. There is also evidence that aluminum itself is a neurotoxic agent. Although the role of aluminum in Alzheimers is still speculative, the presence of aluminosilicates at the core of senile plaques in diseased neurons is a consistent feature found in the brains of AD patients during autopsy.
- Idea Density. Findings from the Nun Study indicated a statistically significant correlation between idea density (using the brain) at the young age and Alzheimer's disease pathology.
- Advancing age
- Family history of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease
- Hyperhomocystinemia (high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine)
- Apolipoprotein E-4
- Down’s Syndrome
- Head trauma
- Reduced blood flow
- Estrogen imbalance
- Poor word fluency
- Emotional stress and/or poor stress coping mechanisms
- Alcohol abuse
- Nutrient deficiencies including low levels of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
- Neurotransmitter deficits
- Metabolic deficits
- Exposure to neurotoxins in the environment (mercury, lead, pesticides, defoliants, fumigants, electromagnetic fields, excess iron)
- Free radical damage
- Aluminum toxicity (suspected)
Symptoms of Alzheimers disease are:
- Warning Signs: The following 10 warning signs, developed by the Alzheimer's Association, can help to identify Alzheimer's disease in a patient before the disease noticeably progresses to the advanced stages.
- Memory loss
- Difficulty performing tasks (even familiar ones)
- Problems with language (i.e. trouble finding the right word, even simple ones)
- Disorientation to time and place (even familiar places)
- Poor or decreased judgment
- Problems with abstract thinking
- Misplacing things (includes putting things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer)
- Changes in mood or behavior (including rapid mood swings for no apparent reason)
- Changes in personality
- Loss of initiative
- Initial Symptoms. The first symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer disease are usually mild forgetfulness. People begin to have difficulty with short-term memory for recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. As the disease progresses, these symptoms begin to occur with increasing frequency.
- Mild symptoms include: confusion and memory loss; disorientation with time and getting lost in familiar surroundings; difficulty performing routine tasks; noticeable changes in personality, judgment, focus and attention.
- Intermediate symptoms include: increased difficulty performing the normal activities of daily living, such as feeding and bathing; increased anxiety and agitation; disturbed sleep patterns; wandering and pacing; increased difficulty with name and face recognition of family and friends.
- Severe symptoms include: loss of speech; loss of bladder and bowel control; requires full-time care.
- The only definite way to diagnose Alzheimers is to find out whether there are plaques and tangles in brain tissue. This can only be done at an autopsy, which is an examination of the body done after a person dies.
- Doctors can only make a diagnosis of "possible" or "probable" Alzheimer while the person is still alive. Doctors use several tools to diagnose "probable" Alzheimer, including:
- Detailed medical history including past and present medical conditions and disorders of mood and emotion.
- Assessment of daily function, cognition, and caregiver status.
- Neurological and physical examination.
- Tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Laboratory testing
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Comprehensive Metabolic panel
- Thyroid function tests
- Folate and vitamin B12 levels
- Homocysteine levels
- VDRL test (venereal disease test for syphilis)
- Amino acid analysis
- Toxic metal screen (hair or urine)
- Fatty acid analysis
- Imaging studies may include EEG, EKG, MRI, or CT.
- Many of these tests help the doctor find or rule out other possible causes of the person's symptoms such as thyroid problems, drug reactions, depression, brain tumors, and blood vessel disease in the brain.
What Is the Best Treatment?
Because the primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not well understood, targeted prevention is difficult. However, naturopathic doctors work to promote wellness by supporting fundamentals of health such as diet, nutrition, and hydration and to remove things that harm health such as digestive disorders, system imbalances, and environmental and chemical exposures and toxicities. You can also work to prevent the disease by addressing the modifiable risk factors listed above. Earlier detection and treatment of Alzheimers also correlates with better outcomes.
The doctors at The Connecticut Center for Health are experienced in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. If you have (or suspect you have) symptoms and want to learn more about natural treatments for Alzheimers, we recommend that you contact one of our clinics for a free consultation about Alzheimers or to schedule an appointment.Return to Natural Solutions for any Health Problem