Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prominent as the population ages, and it can be particularly concerning to those of us who are health-conscious. Whether you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or looking to stay mindful of your own brain health, understanding the condition and its treatments are essential. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease yet, supplementing your diet with specific nutrients may help slow down cognitive decline and improve symptoms associated with memory loss—and that’s where this blog post comes in! Keep reading to learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease, the potential benefits of dietary supplements to manage it, and how these supplements might help you or a loved one maintain independence when coping with Alzheimer’s in long-term care.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a degenerative brain disorder that causes memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes. The disease was first identified in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, and since then, medical researchers have made significant progress in understanding the disease. In this article, we will be exploring what Alzheimer’s is, its causes, and its various treatments as well as recommendations for supplements.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that affects the brain’s physical structure, impacting the way it processes information. The disease is progressive and usually takes years to worsen, eventually affecting the ability to carry out daily tasks independently. The primary cause of Alzheimer’s is believed to be the accumulation of protein fragments called beta-amyloid and tau. These proteins harm neurons, causing them to die, resulting in memory loss and other cognitive difficulties.
People who suffer from Alzheimer’s slowly lose their memories and are unable to retain new information. Their thinking becomes impaired, and they may act confused or aggressive. They are also more likely to experience anxiety and depression.
While Alzheimer’s usually affects people ages 65 and older, it can affect younger individuals. In fact, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. suffer from early onset Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Vs. Dementia
Alzheimer’s and dementia are both brain disorders that affect memory and cognitive abilities. However, they differ in a few ways. Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a group of symptoms related to a decline in memory, thinking, and social skills. It can be caused by various conditions, including Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, is a specific type of dementia that accounts for about 60-80% of dementia cases. It is a progressive disease that slowly destroys cognitive abilities, and there is no known cure.
One key difference between the two conditions is the stage in which symptoms appear. In most cases, Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed at an early stage, while dementia is diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Memory loss is a common symptom in both conditions, but in Alzheimer’s, it typically starts with minor lapses, while in dementia, it can be sudden and severe.
Another difference is the impact on a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. In Alzheimer’s, the ability to carry out daily activities declines more gradually, while in dementia, it can decline rapidly. Dementia can also affect a person’s mood and behavior, leading to changes in personality and agitation.
Early Warning Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The most common and earliest warning sign of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. Those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may not recognize their surroundings. They become confused and disoriented, and often find everyday tasks, like handling money or finishing a chore at home, increasingly difficult to complete.
They may also experience mild to extreme personality changes. This is because Alzheimer’s patients process the world in a way that is completely different from what they understood before. Their internal battle causes them to lash out in frustration.
Other early Alzheimer’s symptoms include:
Difficulty Finding the Right Words
One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s is difficulty finding the right words to express thoughts. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following conversations or repeating themselves frequently. They may also have trouble remembering the names of familiar objects and people. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider for a proper evaluation.
Losing or Misplacing Objects
Losing or misplacing objects more than usual is another early warning sign of Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s may put things in unusual places and forget where they put them. They may also accuse others of stealing or hiding their belongings. If you notice these behaviors in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to seek medical attention.
Difficulty Making Plans or Organizing
People with Alzheimer’s often have difficulty making plans or organizing things. They may forget appointments or have trouble keeping track of bills. They may also struggle with tasks that require multiple steps, such as cooking a meal or doing laundry. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice.
Difficulty problem-solving is another early warning sign of Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble with tasks that require logical thinking, such as balancing a checkbook or following a recipe. They may also have difficulty with abstract thinking, such as understanding common metaphors or puns. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it is important to seek medical attention.
Taking Longer to Complete Routine Daily Tasks
People with Alzheimer’s often take longer to complete routine daily tasks. They may have trouble getting dressed or bathing, and they may forget to do basic tasks like brushing their teeth or eating meals. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider for a proper evaluation.
Symptoms of Moderate Alzheimer’s
Once the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s patients’ brains shrink, leading to severe symptoms including:
Memory Loss and Confusion
It’s common for someone with moderate Alzheimer’s to forget events, details about their life, or simple details like their phone number. They may struggle to recall moments from the past or recent interactions with friends and loved ones.
Confusion about Time and Place
People with moderate Alzheimer’s might have a hard time realizing what day of the week it is, which season they’re in, or where they are. They may feel disoriented or lost, even when they’re in familiar surroundings.
Poor Short-term Memory
Our brains work differently when we’re in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, so retaining recent information can be challenging. They may struggle to remember things that happened just a few minutes ago. This can lead to them repeating questions or stories.
Difficulty Recognizing Friends and Family
The people closest to someone with moderate Alzheimer’s might start to feel like strangers. Their brain may have a hard time matching names and faces, leading to awkward or uncomfortable moments when interacting with others.
Moderate Alzheimer’s can cause difficulties with simple math, such as forgetting how to write numbers or carry out basic calculations. This impairment may lead to difficulties in handling everyday tasks that require mathematical skills.
Sudden Wandering and Incontinence
As the disease progresses, people with moderate Alzheimer’s may wander away from their homes, searching for something or someone. They may also experience incontinence problems, including urine and bowel incontinence.
Changes in Behavior
As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s may show signs of depression, agitation, or anxiety. They may act out or be increasingly agitated, leading to frustration for both them and their caregivers.
Difficulty with Everyday Tasks
The disease can make everyday tasks like bathing, grooming, and using the bathroom more and more difficult. They may also struggle with simple math or other tasks that they previously found easy.
Repetitive Actions and Inability to Finish Tasks
Moderate Alzheimer’s may cause people to repeat stories, thoughts or events in their minds. They may find it challenging to carry out simple tasks and experiences difficulty in finishing them.
Symptoms of Advanced Alzheimer’s
Almost Complete Memory Loss
One of the most recognizable signs of advanced Alzheimer’s disease is almost complete memory loss. In this stage, the person may forget their loved ones’ names or faces or even what they’ve just eaten or said. They may also become confused about everyday objects, places, and even the time of day or year. These memory losses often lead to an individual living in the past, as recent memories fade quickly.
Unaware of Their Surroundings
Another symptom of advanced Alzheimer’s disease is being unaware of their surroundings. The person may not recognize familiar places or people, even their loved ones. They may also wander aimlessly, disoriented, and confused about where they are and why they are there. As a result, they become dependent on others for their basic needs and safety.
Needs Help with All Basic Activities of Everyday Living
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the person’s ability to perform everyday tasks gradually declines. They may need help with even the most basic activities, such as eating, sitting up, and walking. Family caregivers or nursing home staff may need to assist or take over these activities. In many cases, they will need to be bathed and dressed, as they lose the ability to take care of themselves.
Speech Becomes Limited to a Few Words or Phrases
The person’s ability to communicate gradually reduces as Alzheimer’s progresses. Their speech may become limited to a few words or phrases, and they may find it hard to express themselves clearly. They may also withdraw from social interactions and become less responsive to their environment. It is essential to continue communicating with them despite these limitations.
Becomes Vulnerable to Infections
In advanced Alzheimer’s, the person becomes vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia and skin infections. This vulnerability can result from their immune systems being weakened by the condition and their lack of self-care. Caregivers must be vigilant with hygiene procedures and ensure that the individual’s immune system is at the best it can be.
Can Alzheimer’s Cause Hallucinations?
Alzheimer’s disease manifests itself in many different ways, and not everyone who has Alzheimer’s will experience the same symptoms. Some Alzheimer’s patients may experience hallucinations, while others may not. Hallucinations are defined as seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, hallucinations may be a result of damage to the brain’s visual and sensory processing centers by the disease.
Hallucinations can be frightening, and they can also increase the risk of falls in Alzheimer’s patients. They can also lead to behavioral problems such as wandering and agitation. Because of this, it is important for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients to be aware of the risks associated with hallucinations.
There are several types of hallucinations that can occur in Alzheimer’s patients. The most common type is visual hallucinations, where the patient sees things that are not really there. For example, an Alzheimer’s patient may see a person sitting in a chair when no one is there, or they may see animals in their room. Another type of hallucination that can occur in Alzheimer’s patients is auditory hallucinations, where the patient hears sounds that are not really there. For example, they may hear music or voices when no one is around.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
Scientists believe that a combination of lifestyle, environmental factors, aging, and genetics causes Alzheimer’s. However, they have yet to learn exactly what causes it. This is because the disease is very complex, and diagnostic factors vary from person to person.
Genetics is the primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease among individuals who develop the disease before the age of 65. This form of the disease is called Familial Alzheimer’s Disease (FAD), and it is caused by specific mutations in three genes — amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin-1 (PS1), and presenilin-2 (PS2). Together, FAD cases account for about 5 percent of all Alzheimer’s diagnoses. However, the genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) is not as clear, but research has identified several genes that may be involved in the development of the disease.
Studies have shown that certain environmental toxins, such as air pollutants and heavy metals, can significantly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Exposure to these toxins can cause oxidative damage to cells in the brain, gradually leading to cognitive decline. However, more in-depth studies are required on the topic, but it is an area of growing interest.
In addition to genetics and environmental factors, lifestyle behaviors such as diet, physical activity, and social engagement have been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, a diet that is high in saturated fats and sugar and low in fruits and vegetables can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. On the other hand, exercise and social engagement have been shown to protect against cognitive decline.
Other Health Issues
Other health issues such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes can also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions can damage blood vessels in the brain, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. Additionally, inflammation caused by these health issues may lead to the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein plaques in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
How Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain
Alzheimer’s can be a life-changing diagnosis for the patients and their loved ones. However, understanding the disease can help you have better preparation to handle the unknown. We will walk you through how Alzheimer’s affects the brain and what you can do to mitigate the risks.
Brain Cells and Connections
To understand how Alzheimer’s affects the brain, it is essential to know how the brain functions. The brain constitutes of billions of neurons that form networks for communication, information processing, and memory formation. Alzheimer’s causes damage to these networks by killing cells and disrupting connections. As the disease progresses, more and more damage is done, and the brain loses the ability to function normally.
The hippocampus, a brain region that plays a vital role in learning, spatial navigation, and memory formation, is one of the first areas in the brain to be damaged by Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, the hippocampus shrinks, affecting a person’s ability to form new memories and recall old ones. This is why memory loss is often the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
The amygdala is another brain region that suffers affects by Alzheimer’s. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotions such as fear, anxiety, and pleasure. Studies show that damage to the amygdala associates with increasing anxiety and depression in patients with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, patients may experience changes in personality, becoming more irritable or aggressive.
The Frontal Lobe
The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for planning, decision-making, and problem-solving. Alzheimer’s can lead to shrinkage of this area, which can cause apathy, poor judgment, and difficulty completing routine tasks. Patients may also experience a loss of empathy and self-awareness.
The Temporal Lobe
Finally, the temporal lobe is a brain region that is responsible for processing auditory input and language. Damage to this area can manifest as difficulty understanding and processing language. In some cases, patients may lose the ability to communicate entirely, effectively becoming trapped in their bodies.
Can Alzheimer’s Be Diagnosed?
The initial step in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is identifying the root cause of symptoms. The doctor may begin with a general health assessment, blood tests, and an MRI to rule out any other potential underlying conditions that may cause the symptoms. Doctors may conduct a series of tests to gauge cognitive abilities to determine whether a patient’s memory loss is due to Alzheimer’s disease or normal aging. These include Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) to measure cognitive function, and the Clock Drawing Test (CDT) to assess the ability to follow instructions.
The Next Step
The next step involves brain imaging studies. Brain imaging is useful because the scans provide visual information on the patient’s brain structure, aiding in the identification of brain abnormalities or shrinkage. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans use radioactive materials to detect amyloid plaques in the brain, which are sticky clumps of proteins, considered to be a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Another imaging technique is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which helps gather clues to support the Alzheimer’s diagnosis by indicating brain shrinkage caused by neurological degeneration, especially in the temporal and parietal lobes and hippocampus.
Genetic testing is also available to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Testing for the APOE-e4 gene can indicate the likelihood of the carrier developing Alzheimer’s. The APOE-e4 gene test does not confirm the diagnosis, but it is a useful tool for assessing a person’s risk.
Finally, in some cases, doctors may diagnose Alzheimer’s disease using cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis. This involves the removal of tiny amounts of fluid from the spinal cord. The CSF is then analyzed for concentrations of certain proteins. People with Alzheimer’s have lower than average levels of amyloid beta found in cerebrospinal fluid and more tau proteins.
Can Alzheimer’s Kill You?
While Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal in itself, it can contribute to other health complications that may ultimately lead to death. The most common cause of death among Alzheimer’s patients is pneumonia. The condition can cause difficulty in swallowing, leading to food or liquid getting into the lungs, leading to pneumonia. Additionally, Alzheimer’s patients have a weakened immune system, making them more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.
Keeping your brain engaged and active is the key to reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s. You can engage your brain through participating in puzzles, reading, playing games, and learning new activities.
Engaging in regular exercise helps in improving blood circulation to the brain, which strengthens communication pathways and helps fight off Alzheimer’s.
A healthy diet is vital to overall body health. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, seeds, and nuts can reduce the chances of cognitive decline. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lower red meat intake can also reduce dementia risk.
High levels of social interaction and relationships can improve cognitive ability in the brain, which reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Getting enough sleep is vital to good health. A study conducted revealed that sleep deprivation caused plaques on the brain and cognitive decline, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Limit Alcohol Intake
While alcohol can have some benefits, excessive drinking can cause severe memory loss and cognitive decline.
Quitting smoking can aid in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity and carry around excess weight can lead to high blood pressure, heart diseases, and diabetes, which can lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Stress can cause damage to body cells and affect cognitive ability. Effective stress management is essential in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Avoid Head Injuries
A significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is head injury. Prevent head injury by wearing helmets, following traffic rules, and minimizing falls by keeping your home tidy and minimizing clutter.
How to Treat Alzheimer’s
Research proves that a balanced and nutritious diet provides a positive impact on a person’s brain and cognitive functions. Experts recommend that Alzheimer’s patients should consume foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods that are high in sugar, saturated and unhealthy fats, and processed foods should be avoided. Moreover, the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, says to be particularly beneficial to patients with Alzheimer’s.
Exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on Alzheimer’s patients. Regular exercise helps to improve blood flow to the brain, stimulate neural pathways, and keep the body healthy. Patients are to undertake activities such as walking, swimming, dancing, and yoga. These activities can also help reduce stress and anxiety, which are often happen in Alzheimer’s patients.
Quality sleep is essential for overall health, particularly for individuals living with Alzheimer’s. Lack of sleep can worsen cognitive function and memory retention. However, getting proper rest is easier said than done for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, as they often experience disrupting sleep patterns. Establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a calm and comfortable environment, limiting caffeine intake, and avoiding screens before bedtime can all help promote better sleep quality.
Stress can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health, and it can exacerbate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Engage in stress-reducing practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or simply spending time in nature. Additionally, reach out for support from loved ones, social workers, or groups specifically intended for caregivers.
Medication is a very important aspect of Alzheimer’s treatment. Doctors usually prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors, which help to improve cognitive function, or memantine, which helps to regulate the neurotransmitter glutamate. These medications also have a positive impact on the behavioral symptoms associated with the disease. You should always consult a doctor before starting any medication.
Cognitive therapy is another excellent way to treat Alzheimer’s disease. This therapy helps stimulate the neural pathways in the brain, and keep the mind active. Patients are to read books, play games, and use other cognitive training methods to keep their minds active. This therapy shows to slow down the cognitive decline experienced by Alzheimer’s patients.
The social aspect of Alzheimer’s treatment is just as important as medical and therapeutic treatment. Support groups give patients and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Here, they can share experiences, struggles, and successes. Support groups also provide access to valuable information and resources that can help in the management and treatment of the disease.
Supplements for Alzheimer’s Disease
Research indicates that certain supplements may reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s:
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that are highly beneficial for brain function. They are in high quantities in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Omega-3 supplements are widely available and have proved to be effective in improving cognitive abilities such as memory, reasoning, and executive function. The supplement comes as a pill or can be an addition to food products to enhance their nutritional value.
Ginkgo biloba is a herb that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. The herb contains terpenoids and flavonoids that are to protect brain cells from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage and inflammation. Ginkgo biloba supplements has been shown to improve cognitive function in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It is also an effective herb for reducing anxiety, improving mood, and enhancing memory.
Huperzine A is a natural substance that is extracted from Chinese club moss. It works by inhibiting an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is critical for memory and learning. Since acetylcholine levels are low in people with Alzheimer’s disease, Huperzine A supplements can help improve cognitive function in individuals with this condition. This herb has neuroprotective effects, which can help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric is a well-known spice with extraordinary health benefits. It contains curcumin, which is a polyphenol that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These properties help to reduce inflammation in the brain, which is one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin also helps to reduce beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric supplements is an excellent herb for reducing brain inflammation and improving memory.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in protecting the brain from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage brain cells and is one of the leading causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E supplements in combination with other antioxidants can help maintain healthy brain function and cognitive abilities.
B-Vitamins, including Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, and Vitamin B12, play a crucial role in maintaining healthy brain function. They help in the production of neurotransmitters, regulate homocysteine levels, and improve cognitive abilities like information processing, memory retention, and executive function. B-Vitamin supplements can be found in many stores, and they are present in dietary supplements that enhance brain health.
Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring compound that plays a vital role in energy production in the body. It is in high concentrations in organs and tissues with high energy requirements like the brain. Coenzyme Q10 supplements have been shown to improve cognitive abilities and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Coenzyme Q10 can also help in reducing oxidative stress and preserving the brain’s natural antioxidant defense.
Bacopa Monnieri is an herb that is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb contains bacosides, which are compounds that protect brain cells from damage caused by free radicals. Bacopa extract powder helps to improve memory, cognitive function, and overall brain health. It is also an effective herb for reducing anxiety and depression.
Ashwagandha is a herb that is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. The herb has many health benefits, including its ability to enhance brain function. Ashwagandha helps to reduce the production of cortisol, which is a hormone that releases during stress. High levels of cortisol can cause damage to brain cells and lead to cognitive decline. Ashwagandha extract capsules is an excellent herb for improving cognitive function, reducing stress, and enhancing brain health.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that is found in green tea. The amino acid has many health benefits, including its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. L-Theanine shows to improve cognitive function and enhance memory. The amino acid also helps to increase alpha waves in the brain, which promote relaxation and reduce stress. L-Theanine capsules is an excellent herb for reducing stress, improving cognitive function, and enhancing brain health.
The Bottom Line
Alzheimer’s is a complex and devastating disease that affects millions of people around the world. While there is no cure, understanding how Alzheimer’s affects the brain can help patients and their loved ones navigate through the disease and maximize their quality of life. Remember, early diagnosis and treatment can make a significant difference in how the disease progresses. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss or other symptoms of Alzheimer’s, please consult with a healthcare professional.
Although there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are some supplements that may help enhance brain function and slow down the progression of the disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, and vitamin B12 are some of the supplements that may be beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients. If you are looking for ways to support your or a loved one’s brain function, consider adding these supplements to your diet. Remember, supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, but they can be helpful in enhancing brain function and improving quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients.
In conclusion, while Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal in itself, it can lead to complications that may eventually cause death. The condition causes several physical, cognitive, and behavioral changes that can lead to various health and safety complications. Alzheimer’s patients are more vulnerable to infections, falls, malnutrition, and dehydration, contributing to the condition’s mortality. It is vital to remain informed on the possible complications associated with Alzheimer’s and take preventive measures where possible. Caregivers and family members should be vigilant in ensuring the safety and well-being of Alzheimer’s patients to avoid any fatal outcomes.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.