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Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population, it may occur in any stage of adulthood. It is characterised by a set of symptoms in which affected areas of cognition may be memory, attention, language, and problem solving.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia and is named after the German neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer who discovered it in 1907.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a chronic degenerative brain disease that is characterised by the formation of amyloid plaques and neuronal tangles in the brain. These occur when proteins produced in the brain don’t fold up into the correct shape.

The disease attacks nerve cells in all parts of the cortex of the brain, as well as some surrounding structures. These are the parts of the brain that allow us to govern our emotions, recognize errors and patterns, coordinate movement and remember.

At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but much can be done in terms of prevention and also in helping to slow the progression of the condition.

Symptoms

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Poor decision making
  • Loss of personal items
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Anxious, irritability or depression
  • May need assistance carrying out day-to-day activities
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Hallucinations
  • Physical frailty
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of speech or speech becomes repetitive
  • Aggression

Underlying Causes

Genetic – Only about 10% of cases of Alzheimer’s disease exhibit familial inheritance. However, certain genes do act as risk factors for the disease. Apolipoprotein E gene helps transport cholesterol and builds healthy membranes for the brain’s neurons. Those who carry a certain variation of this gene have more than double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s or dementia you may want to consult Smart Nutrition who can advice you on key prevention techniques.

Nutritional deficiencies – The Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (Optima) says Alzhemier’s may be caused by a vitamin-deficient diet. Optima was launched in 1988 and over the past 10 years has collected blood samples from hundreds of patients. In particular their results have shown that those with low levels of B12 and folic acid are between 3 and 4 times more likely to suffer from the disease. Having A Vitamin and Mineral Screen  is an excellent preventative measure. It will give you a comprehensive overview of your nutrient status, so any deficiencies can be identified and corrected before they become a problem. If you like you can discuss the results with a qualified nutritional therapist who can advise you on key dietary changes and the best supplements to take to get your body back in balance.

High homocysteine – One reason B vitamin deficiencies are thought to be so detrimental is because these nutrients also play an important role in metabolising the toxic substance homocysteine. Homocysteine is a chemical naturally produced in the body. When levels are kept within check it doesn’t pose any health risks. However, if the body’s ability to break homocysteine down becomes compromised it can gradually accumulate. High homocysteine is linked to mental health problems, cardiovascular disease and many other conditions. It can be easily treated with a specially designed supplement programme and diet. Test your Homocysteine Levels. 

Oxidative damage and inflammation – Inflammatory processes are largely mediated by chemicals called free radicals. Normally the body has very good mechanisms for mopping up free radicals before they do us any damage. However, in chronic inflammation we are constantly exposed to high levels of free radicals and our body’s defence mechanism can become overwhelmed. The problem is normal brain molecules are disrupted as a result of inflammation and this can cause amyloid beta proteins in the brain to misfold leading to the formation of plaques and tangles. The presence of these plaques and tangles then causes further inflammation and a vicious circle begins.

Cardiovascular disease – Specific diagnosis of Alzheimer’s based on identification of plaques or patches of dead cells in the brain. These plaques are formed from a protein called beta amyloid which is the same substance which is implicated in the arterial plaques which can cause cardiovascular problems. Scientists now think that people who suffer from cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, angina, heart attacks and strokes have an increased risk of developing dementia or Alzhemier’s. If you suffer from any of these conditions and want to take preventative steps, Smart Nutrition can put together a specific protocol for you to support your cardiovascular health and long term wellness. You may also like to consider a test to assess your Cardiovascular Health.

Stress – When we are stressed, our bodies produce more of the ‘fight or flight’ chemicals, which prepare us for an emergency. One of these is cortisol, which in small amounts is a natural anti-inflammatory. However, when cortisol levels are raised for a long time it can start to damage the brain. One way of assessing cortisol levels is to have An Adrenal Stress Test. The test uses saliva samples to measure the levels of the different stress hormones throughout the day. This can help to pinpoint any imbalances which can then be corrected with the help of a nutritional therapist, decreasing the chances of the stress causing a more serious problem.

Aluminium toxicity – Aluminium is often found in the plaques of Alzheimer’s sufferers, but it is not yet clear whether this is cause or consequence of the disease. Aluminium is present in aspirin, antacids, self-raising flour, processed cheese, drinking water, baking powder, tobacco smoke, drink cans, cooking pans & utensils, air pollution, antiperspirants & aluminium foil. Studies have also shown that people routinely exposed to aluminium display higher incidence of impaired cognitive function and memory. Since aluminium plays no beneficial role in human nutrition it is desirable to keep levels as low as possible. If you are concerned about your aluminium exposure you might like to have A Hair Mineral Analysis done.

Acetylcholine deficiency – Acetylcholine is a molecule your brain uses to coordinate memory and learning and levels are often low in sufferers of Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are medications available that treat acetylcholine deficiency which can help affect symptoms of the disease. There are also a number of nutrients and supplements that can be used to help encourage the body to make more of its own acetylcholine. Whether you suffer from Alzheimer’s or just want to improve your memory, Smart Nutrition can advise you on the best products to use and diet and lifestyle changes to support cognition.

Poor blood supply to the brain – Brain cells need a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen, which is provided by the blood. If there is any interruption of blood flow to the brain, cells quickly become damaged and may even die. This is the main cause of vascular dementia, but can also lead to the inflammatory processes implicated in Alzheimer’s. Poor blood flow is often a result of an underlying cardiovascular problem that needs to be treated by a medical professional. However, if you would like additional dietary, lifestyle and nutrient  support for your condition, consider booking an appointment with Smart Nutrition using the link below.

Digestive & detoxification problems – Digestive problems can lead to poor liver detoxification and can create an increased toxic load on the brain, generating inflammation, a likely factor in Alzheimer’s. They also predispose you to nutrient deficiencies. If you are concerned about your digestion and detoxification, A Stool Analysis Test  can be used to identify any irregularities in the digestive process and the CDSAP1 also has a marker ‘Betaglucoronidase’ that reflects how well you are able to remove or whether you recirculate toxins in the bowel.