Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia, accounting for up to 80% of all cases.
- According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s in 2012.
- One in eight Americans over age 65 have the disease. As baby boomers age, the numbers are increasing exponentially.
- In 2012, the direct costs of caring for those with AD and other dementias were estimated to be $200 billion, plus another $210 billion of unpaid care by family members.
AD is a serious degenerative disease; it is the sixth leading cause of death in America. Severe AD frequently causes complications such as immobility, swallowing disorders, and malnutrition, which significantly increase the risk of developing pneumonia.
AD was first identified more than 100 years ago, but research into its symptoms, causes, risk factors, and treatment only gained momentum in the last 30 years. AD affects people in different ways, but the most common symptom pattern begins with gradually worsening ability to remember new information. Here are 10 early signs and symptoms:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or problem solving
- Difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial Synapse xt relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
At present, there is no medication to prevent or cure AD, only to manage the symptoms. However, more and more studies suggest diet and lifestyle may play a critical role in determining whether one will develop the disease. The following discusses some strategies in preventing AD and important nutrients that have the potential to slow down the progression of the disease.
What We Know Today About Alzheimer’s
The exact cause of AD is still essentially unknown with the exception of a small minority of cases by which genetic factors (such as the APOE4 gene) have been identified.
The major characteristic of AD is the loss of neurons (nerve cell that specializes in transmitting information through electrical and chemical signals) and synapses (space separating the neurons) in the cerebral cortexof the brain. This is the area that plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.
In AD affected brains, protein beta-amyloid plaques accumulate outside the neurons and protein tau tangles aggregate inside the neurons. This results in interference of information transfer at synapses and contributes to cell death and degeneration of the affected regions of the brain.
You are more likely to get AD if you are over 65, have a close blood relative such as parent, brother, or sister with AD, or if you possess the genes associated with AD. Barring that, diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors play a critical role in the prevention of the disease.
The damage done to your brain actually begins decades before you show any of the telltale signs of AD. So it is vitally important to make healthy decisions now, before you unwittingly do decades of damage to your brain and nerves that you may not be able to reverse.