Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder named for German physician Alois
Alzheimer. It is a neurodegenerative disease that is generally found in people over
the age of 60. Approximately 24 million people worldwide suffering due to Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer's disease does not discriminate between rich and poor, engineer and doctor,
teacher and head of State. Says K. Jacob Roy, National Chairman, Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India
(ARDSI): “The only known risk factor is age. As a person grows older, he is at
greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s. After 60, the risk is one in 20, but after 80 it is one in five.” No one knows why it happens,
but it occurs when cells in the brain start dying. It is degenerative and leads
to progressive mental deterioration.
Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist, identified
in 1901 the first case of what became known as Alzheimer's disease in a 50 year-old patient
Auguste D and followed her to her death in 1906. The term Alzheimer's disease was formally adopted in
medical nomenclature to describe individuals of all ages with the characteristic common
symptom pattern, disease course, and neuropathology.
Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age.
But when serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of aging. They may be a sign that
brain cells are failing. The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell communicates with many others to form networks.
Nerve cell networks have special jobs. Some are involved in thinking,
learning and remembering. Others help us see, hear and smell. Still otherstell our muscles when to move.In Alzheimer’s disease, parts of the cell’s factory stop running well.
Alzheimer's disease attacks nerve cells in several regions of the brain.
Cerebral Cortex: Involved in conscious thought and language.
Basal forebrain: Has large numbers of neurons containing
acetylcholine, a chemical important in memory and learning.
Hippocampus: Essential to memory storage.
Alzheimer's disease is a
kind of mental disorder and is characterized by gross diffuse atrophy of the brain and loss of neurons, neuronal processes and
synapses in the cerebral cortex and certain subcortical regions. In Alzheimer's disease usually short-term memory loss and visual-spatial
confusion are visible in the initial stage. As the disease progresses
patients will not be able to perform even simple tasks independently and will require constant supervision.
They will slowly lose the ability to walk and eat without assistance. Language becomes severely
disorganized and then lose the ability to swallow food and fluid and ultimately lead to death
In a report, Mathew Varghese MD, Professor of Psychiatry,
NIMHANS, says mental disorders in the elderly in India are a major public health issue for these major reasons: poor public awareness of these
disorders; rapidly changing traditional family and social support systems; and few health services that are
geared to cater to the special needs of the elders. Some known risk factors are:
1. Advancing age
2. ApoE epsilon 4 genotype
3. Environmental exposure to aluminum
4. Head injury
5. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, high
cholesterol and strokes
7. Environmental pollution.
The first identified symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are usually short-term memory loss and visual-spatial confusion. These initial symptoms
progress from seemingly simple and often fluctuating forgetfulness and difficulty orienting oneself
such as in a traffic lane while driving and difficulty navigating through
familiar areas such as one's neighborhood, loss of other familiar and well-known skills as well as recognition of objects and persons
Few warning signs as:
* Difficulty in doing familiar tasks: inability to perform simple, tasks such as unlocking a door or making tea.
* Slipping job performance: forgetting appointments or meetings.
* Language difficulties: difficulty with words and in naming objects such as pen or spectacles.
* Confusion of place and time: difficulty in remembering the time of day, or even recognising their neighborhood.
* Lack of judgment: touching a hot object, being insensible to traffic while crossing the road etc.
* Lack of initiative: becoming passive and needing constant prompting.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's
disease found at present. Currently available medications offer relatively small symptomatic benefit for some patients but do
not slow disease progression.
A large number of potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease are currently
under investigation, including four compounds being studied in phase 3 clinical
trials. Xaliproden had been shown to reduce neurodegeneration in animal studies. Tramiprosate (3APS or Alzhemed) is a GAG-mimetic molecule that is
believed to act by binding to soluble amyloid beta to prevent the accu mulation of the toxic plaques. Tarenflurbil (MPC-7869, formerly R-flubiprofen) is a gamma
secretase modulator sometimes called a selective amyloid beta 42 lowering agent. Leuprolide has been studied for Alzheimer’s to work by reducing luteinizing hormone levels which may be causing damage in the brain as one ages.
Alternative treatments for Alzheimer's include a range of herbal compounds and dietary supplements.
Alzheimer's and dementia
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among older
people. The tendency to confuse the two terms, Alzheimer's and dementia — or to combine them — can lead to confusion. Alzheimer's and dementia
are not the same thing. Dementia is a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities.
Alzheimer's disease, named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, is an irreversible brain disease that, over time, destroys
memory and thinking skills. Symptoms typically appear in individuals
around age 60, characterized by memory problems in the very early stages. Other
symptoms include language deterioration, confusion, restlessness, forgetfulness, and mood swings. These early symptoms of
Alzheimer's resemble the signs of natural aging, and can be overlooked.
is no cure for Alzheimer's disease but adopting some preventive methods
reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Intellectual work as playing chess, doing crosswords etc.
2. Regular physical exercise lowers the risk.
3. A social interaction reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A
lonely individual is likely to develop the type of dementia linked to Alzheimer’s disease in
his or her late life.
4. A vegetarian diet rich of fruits and vegetables and low in saturated
fat, supplemented with B vitamins , folic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids,
fruit and vegetable juice.
5. High doses of the antioxidant Vitamin E (in combination with vitamin C)
reduces Alzheimer's risk.
6. Minimize consumption of alcohol.
7. Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) reduce Alzheimer's risk in observational studies.
Exercise can cure Alzheimer's disease
Taking regular exercise can help to reverse the mental decline that comes with
ageing even in people with Alzheimer's, scientists say. Studies have shown that exercise can increase the size of the brain and improve
the speed and sharpness of thought. Brains decline as a natural part of the ageing process, which can lead to
problems such as difficulty with memory, co-ordination and planning.
Professor Art Kramer, from the US Beckman Institute at the University of
Illinois, said that there is now a swell of evidence suggesting that the protective effects of exercise can extend to reversing mental decline.
Research suggests that the benefits of regular work outs are seen not only in
those undergoing the normal aging process but also in people suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Taking regular moderate exercise, just enough to encourage breathlessness, can
increase the speed at which our brains think, research has shown. The findings of one study suggested that people who exercised for just one hour
three times a week over three months increased their brain size to that of
someone three years younger. Research has also shown that exercise can help older brains retain the capacity
to grow and develop, known as plasticity. Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Professor Kramer, who
believes that around six months of physical activity would be enough to see a marked improvement in brain power.
New study on Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's gene 'diabetes link'
: Scientists say they have identified a possible genetic link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. US researchers writing in Genetics say a study of
worms has indicated a known Alzheimer's gene also plays a role in the way insulin is processed.
Dementia experts said more work in humans was now needed.
Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, which affects 820,000
people in the UK. There are medications which can slow the progress of the disease, but
none that can halt its progress.
Alzheimer's and coconut oil
Professor Clarke, an expert on the way the body makes and uses energy,
believes coconut oil and similar compounds might help by boosting the
brain's energy supply. Most of the time our brains rely on glucose from carbohydrates, but if
that isn't available ? because we haven't eaten anything for a while or
because we're eating almost no carbohydrates ? then our brain cells can
switch to using the energy from our fat stores.
This energy comes in the form of small molecules called
ketones. Coconut oil contains a lot of a particular sort of fat that our bodies can use to make more of the
ketone "brain food". "It's known as MCT (medium chain triglycerides) and it's not found in
the fats most of us eat." says Professor Clarke. Ketones help people with Alzheimer's- One of the new
ideas about the disease is that it is diabetes of the brain.