When a loved one becomes ill, it can cause great distress for them and for those around them. When that illness is Alzheimer’s disease, that distress can be overwhelming. Understanding what causes this disease and how it can be treated is vital.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
The disease itself is a physical one, located in the brain, which in turn causes dementia in its sufferers. The disease causes a build-up of protein in the brain, which leads to the vital connections between nerve cells being lost. These nerve cells will eventually die and then the sufferer will lose brain tissue also.
It is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms will worsen with time. Watching your loved one progress through the stages can be extremely upsetting. One of the early symptoms is short-term memory lapses. This can be frustrating for both the sufferer and those around them, causing daily life to become a struggle.
As the disease progresses, these memory lapses will become more frequent and the sufferer may eventually have trouble with mental cognition and even language.
Alzheimer’s disease can lead to anxiety, irritability and depression for both the sufferer and those around them. Although the disease itself does not cause pain to the sufferer, they are more at risk of injury from confusion and less awareness of their surroundings.
Is there a cure?
Quite simply, no there isn’t. Much research has been done over the years to find one and scientists have made huge leaps and bounds in understanding the disease. However, that cure is still elusive.
There are various ways to manage the symptoms, including drugs, plenty of support and certain activities designed to exercise the brain. Reading a book or completing a jigsaw puzzle can help enormously and someone in the latter stages may enjoy reminiscence exercises.
Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease: How can diet help? Omega-3 Fatty Acids and B-Group Vitamins.
Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Not smoking, taking regular exercise and keeping that bad cholesterol in check will all help too.
There is wide belief that consuming a Mediterranean diet can help to reduce the risk of memory problems. A Mediterranean diet consists of the following:
Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Mediterranean Diet
Not only does a diet such as this lead to lower rates of heart attacks, but it can also help to prevent mental diseases such as dementia.
Oily fish in particular is championed as being one of the best foods for the brain. Tara Harwood, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says that some studies have found an association between diets with plenty of oily fish with high levels of omega-3 and the decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. However, to reach any sort of conclusion, more research should be carried out.
High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid found in the blood, have been associated with the risk of dementia. One path being examined is whether an increased intake of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 can help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamins B6 and B12 break down homocysteine and can be found in certain meats, seafood, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Fortified cereals also contain a good amount of these vital vitamins.
Alzheimer’s disease and diet: Antioxidants
Free radicals can cause cell destructions on a daily basis, something women of a more mature age know only too well as they try to find the best moisturizer to battle the signs of aging!
These unstable molecules cause cell damage, which could be a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to what causes Alzheimer’s disease. To reduce exposure to free radicals, you should have limited exposure to the sun and its harmful UV rays. You can also limit contact with environmental pollutants and cigarette smoke. So if you see that friend lighting up near you, gently remind them that you don’t smoke and don’t wish to suffer from their habit! I’m sure this won’t annoy them. Much.
On the subject of free radicals, Harwood says that free radicals are simply the result of metabolism, which happens every days in our bodies. Since it is impossible to completely eliminate these free radicals, eating foods enriched with antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, beta carotene and flavonoids will help.
You will also notice the benefit to your skin!
Foods rich in antioxidants include:
Dark green vegetables
Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Next Step
Scientists are still working hard to find a cure for this awful disease and clinical trials include much research into diet. Randolph Schiffer, MD of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for brain health, says that in well-designed clinical trials, there is no certainty that any foods, dietary supplements, vitamins or alternative herbal medicines have any effect on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. With that being said, most scientists in the field of Alzheimer’s research strongly believe that people should take and follow a healthy lifestyle, which includes a diet low in saturated fats and rich in antioxidants and B vitamins.
So there we have it. There is, as yet, no proof that diet can reduce the risk or symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but scientists are in agreement that we should all follow a healthy lifestyle and research is ongoing to find that vital link between diet, lifestyle and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you believe that you, or a loved one, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, please do visit your GP and have what could be a very worthwhile chat. There is no need for anyone to go through this frightening experience alone, with plenty of support being available out there.