About Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease is generally an illness of old age, although early on-set Alzheimer's disease, may affect people in their 30's and 40's. Amyloid plaques are the hallmark of the disease. They are proteins that clump up in the brain and can be visible

Alzheimer's disease is an illness that affects the brain.  It is the most common type of dementia and typically starts to affect people around age 60.

Stages of the Disease

Alzheimer’s disease or AD progresses in three stages.  Symptoms of early AD includes:  confusion about where familiar things are located, loss of initiative or spontaneity, difficulty handling money, increased anxiety, changes in mood and personality, among other symptoms.  With moderate Alzheimer’s patients may experience, more loss of memory and confusion, problems with thinking logically and organizing thoughts, irritability, paranoia or suspiciousness, repetitive statements or movements, outburst of anger that are inappropriate, troubles with wandering, restlessness, agitation, etc., in the late afternoon or early evening, among other things.   During the last stage of the disease, amyloid plaques are visible in an MRI, patients may experience skin infections, weight loss, seizures, inability to recognize family and friends, inability to communicate in anyway, trouble swallowing, loss of bladder and bowel control, increased sleeping, among other symptoms.

AD currently has no cure and no definite cause.  With the increase in the aging population in the U.S., the illness is expected to increase.  AD affects about 5.3 million Americans and approximately 24 million people world-wide.  There are some treatments for it like the drug Aricept.  One promising treatment currently being tested globally involves patients receiving a vaccine called a bapineuzumab jab.  Results so far show that it prevents or reverses the creation of the amyloid plaques that are a well-known symptom of the disease.   

Possible Prevention

There is no specific means to prevent Alzheimer’s but certain activities and lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of its development.

  • Eating a Mediterranean diet, that is high in foods like whole grains, olive oil, fish, vegetables and fruits and low on red meat, may reduce the risk.  Also having an advanced degree and being socially engaged appear to help reduce the risk of developing the illness.
  • The condition of your health can also affect your risk.  Aerobic exercise for those with the disease, as been seen to improve the behavioral and psychological symptoms.
  • Not smoking, having lower cholesterol, reducing inflammation in the body, and having lower homocysteine levels also appear to help reduce the risk of developing AD.
  • Homocysteine is an amino acid that naturally circulates through the body.  Foods that reduce its presence include: collard greens, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, parsley, spinach, asparagus, among others.  Drugs that reduce inflammation include ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • Cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s seems to be connected.  Some autopsy studies demonstrate that as many as 80% of AD patients also had cardiovascular disease.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, many experts feel that protecting brain health may be done most cost-effectively by managing cardiovascular risk factors.

References:

http://health.yahoo.net/health/alzheimers-disease-symptoms

http://www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_prevention_and_risk.asp

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