This begins a three-part article on what natural remedies have the best evidence in regard to helping lessen the blow of Alzheimer’s disease. Today. I address exactly what this disease is, what puts you at risk, and how it is diagnosed.
Dr. Aloysiu Alzheimer was a German psychiatrist who first described the symptoms of a disease that now bears his name. In 1906, he found that a woman’s brain had a loss of nerve cells and their connections, and had large amounts of sticky proteins (beta amyloid) that had accumulated outside the nerve cells with many twisted strands of other proteins inside the cells.
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have multiple cognitive deficiencies — memory, in particular — as well as decline in their intellect. Common symptoms include getting lost in familiar places, difficulty with language, and confusion. Every year in the U.S., 360,000 more people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Overall, anywhere from three million to five million people have the disease. By 2050, the number of Alzheimer’s patients may reach 25 million. It develops in people over 65, although there is a less common, early-onset form of the disease, which may affect individuals as young as age 30.
The main risk factors:
— Age: This is the biggest one. It’s estimated that Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after age 65 until age 85, when 50% of people will have the disease.
— Race: African-Americans and Hispanic individuals are at greater risk of Alzheimer’s.
— Gender: Women have a slightly higher risk of Alzheimer’s than men.
— Genetics: There is a gene that Alzheimer’s has been linked to.
— Environment: It’s thought that environmental factors such as certain metals, viruses, bacteria, and toxins may play a role.
— Mental activity/education: People with more education and who stay mentally active reduce their risk.
— Vitamin-B deficiency: Low levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid are factors.
— High cholesterol/blood pressure: Good evidence exists here.
— Medical illness: Suffering a severe head injury puts someone at higher risk.
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No single test will diagnose Alzheimer’s. A skilled physician can correctly diagnose it nine times out of 10 based on the patient’s medical history and a physical exam. They will look to see if there is memory loss, or other cognitive disturbances such as language problems, trouble with motor activities, failure to recognize objects, and difficulty with planning, organizing, or abstract thinking. They will rule out other possibilities such as thyroid problems, alcoholism, nutritional imbalances, drug side effects, and depression.
In part two, I’ll reveal the most promising supplement for this troubling disease.