“We never think how great a gift, it is to think”
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia (memory loss, defective thinking, and reasoning). It is a devastating disease, painful for both the person suffering as well as the family whose loved one is affected.
WHAT CAUSES ALZHEIMER’S?
It is due to the formation of abnormal deposits of proteins in the brain known as tangles & plaques. These proteins function abnormally and damage the nerve cells. The damaged nerve cells eventually die and cause the brain to shrink in later stages.
The first and most commonly affecting area of the brain is hippocampus, which plays a vital role in forming memories. The new, more recent memories are lost first, old memories are affected at a later stage. As more and more nerve cells die and more areas of the brain are affected, the symptoms become much worse and more numerous.
The brain of a person with Alzheimer’s has low levels of certain neurotransmitters (choline) which allows messages to pass between nerve cells. The lower levels of choline may cause the nerve cells to communicate with each other less effectively, which leads to defects in memory and logical thinking.
The main drug therapy in Alzheimer’s aims to increase the neurotransmitter in the remaining patent nerve cells, to preserve the communication among nerve cells for a while.
WATCH OUT FOR THESE SIGNS IN YOUR LOVED ONES
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are generally mild to start with but they get worse over time and soon start to interfere with daily routine activities.
- Memory loss: The earliest symptoms are difficulty in filling the gaps in memory. It’s starts with difficulty in recalling recent events for example: losing common items around the house like keys, forget names very often, Struggle to find the right word in a conversation, to be lost in a familiar place
- The problem in thinking, reasoning, and perception of distance like driving.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems.
- They may repeat the same information in a conversation or be suddenly lost in the middle of a conversation, with no idea how to continue.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities.
- Changes in mood, appear anxious, agitated, depressed or confused.
- As the disease progresses, carrying out the daily activities becomes a struggle like walking without a support or eating a meal on your own.
- Hallucinations and delusions, believe things that are not real, see or hear things which are not really there.
THE RISK FACTORS
Alzheimer’s is often considered to affect senior citizens, while age is a very important risk factor, Alzheimer’s can also strike early, leaving the family confused and devastated. A combination of risk factors is linked to this disease.
- AGE: Age remains the greatest risk factor. Senior citizens over the age of 65 years are more predisposed to the condition. About 1 in 10 people age 65yrs & older have Alzheimer’s.
- GENDER: More common in women post-menopause, lower levels of estrogen is believed to be the predisposing factor.
- GENES: If a first degree relative like a parent or a sibling is diagnosed as Alzheimer’s, the risk is increased. However, anybody can reduce the risk by living a healthy and active lifestyle.
- HEAD INJURY: A serious head injury in the past predisposes a person to develop Alzheimer’s early in life.
- SOCIAL ISOLATION: It is important to stay socially engaged with friends & family.
It is believed that Alzheimer’s disease begins about 20 years before any symptoms are actually noticed. Early detection of symptoms and intervention remains the key to treatment, there are certain modifiable health and lifestyle changes to help prevent this entire process.
- HEALTH & LIFESTYLE: Diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and obesity in the mid-life are all known to be a risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
LOVE YOUR BRAIN:
- WORK OUT A SWEAT: Engage in regular cardio exercise, it increases in blood flow to the brain.
- KEEP CHALLENGING YOUR MIND: Play games of critical thinking and reasoning, a game of strategy like chess.
- STAY IN COMPANY OF LOVED ONES: Stay socially active and engage in activities with family and friends. Do not isolate yourself from social interactions.
- SOUND SLEEP: Sleep at least 8 hours a day for a healthy functioning brain
- EAT RIGHT: Eat a balanced and healthy diet, do not shy away from fresh fruits & vegetables. A poor diet negatively affects our brain.
VITAL NUTRIENTS FOR OUR BRAIN
- Vitamin E: Broccoli, Brussels, sprouts nuts like almonds, seeds(sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- Vitamin B12: Eggs, cheese, milk, Leafy greens: Kale, spinach, coriander rich source
- Vitamin D: Yoghurt, lean poultry, fatty fish like tuna and salmon, liver
- PUFA’s (Polyunsaturated fatty acids): The brain is highly enriched in PUFA, it helps regulate brain processes. Found in Fish like trout, vegetable oil, walnuts, flaxseed oil, Olive oil.
- Beans & legumes
- Whole grains
- Spices like Cinnamon, turmeric & cumin
- SAFETY IS THE BEST POLICY: Head injury is a risk factor to Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, Always wear a seatbelt and use the helmet to minimize injury to the head in case of a mishap.
- KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY: A healthy heart and a healthy brain go hand in hand.
- QUIT SMOKING: Smoking can cause a decline in brain function.
- READ YOUR BOOKS: Education decreases the risk of intellectual decline and dementia.
- STRESS-FREE: Manage stress to improves brain functions and memory.
“There is one thing Alzheimer’s cannot take away and that is love. Love is not a memory, it’s a feeling that resides forever.”
Love your family, Encourage healthy discussions, positive group activities with family and friends, a clean and healthy environment, maintain a healthy weight, sleep more, laugh more.