Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior, per the Alzheimer’s Association. It is a progressive disease that worsens over time, eventually advancing to the point where it interferes with daily activities, such as when it comes to swallowing food or getting lost while driving on a familiar route, such as from work to home.
Some memory loss is typical for older adults as they continue to age, but Alzheimer’s is a more serious condition, because it causes brain cells to malfunction and eventually die. It’s the sixth-leading cause of death in America. Alzheimer’s, in its later stages, can cause a person to lose his or her ability to engage in a conversation and even respond to their environment. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, although that number can generally range anywhere from four years to 20 years.
Estimates are that about six million U.S. residents aged 65 and over have Alzheimer’s, while about 200,000 people living in America have what’s known as early-onset Alzheimer’s – they are afflicted with it before reaching their 65th birthday. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, although some drugs have demonstrated an ability to slow the progression of the disease, even if only temporarily.
Vitamins, Supplements Might Be Beneficial
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the supplements and vitamins that have shown potential as alternatives to prescription drugs for treating Alzheimer’s. Per health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola, high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats are believed to ward off cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, effectively slowing down its advancement.
Researchers have particular interest in Omega-3’s DHA compound, or docosahexaenoic acid, found in salmon and other fish. Studies of mice specially bred with Alzheimer’s characteristics, per National Health Institutes, have demonstrated how DHA can decrease beta-amyloid plaques, which are deposits of proteins typical of patients with Alzheimer’s.
Following are some of the other vitamins, supplements and foods that are believed to be helpful in possibly warding off the development of cognitive-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Coconut oil
- Vitamin E
- Gingko biloba
- Alpha lipoic acid
Myths and Misconceptions Addressed
Many myths and misconceptions have been bandied about for years regarding truths and falsehoods concerning Alzheimer’s. With November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, let’s take a look at a half-dozen of them:
- Alzheimer’s is not fatal. It is fatal, no question, health professionals generally agree. The steady and significant loss of memory and other cognitive functions are just the tip of the Alzheimer’s iceberg. It eventually steals a person of his or her identity, producing erratic behaviors, and leading to loss of bodily functions, per alz.org. Yes, everyone eventually dies, but Alzheimer’s pushes the process along, essentially shutting a person down in ways not typically experienced.
- Flu shots increase risk of Alzheimer’s. Per alz.org, this was a false proclamation (“fake news”?) once made by an American doctor, whose license to practice was suspended by his state’s board of medical examiners. Instead, as multiple studies have pointed out, flu vaccinations have actually been linked to a reduced instance of Alzheimer’s as part of better overall health.
- Silver fillings used in teeth enhance the risk of Alzheimer’s. Uh, no. Here’s the deal – at one time there were concerns that the mercury (a heavy metal) contained in an amalgam used for fillings was alleged to be toxic to the brain and other body organs. In fact, mercury as used in dental fillings was concluded to not be toxic by various public health agencies, to include the World Health Organization. Bottom line: dental amalgams containing mercury were ruled out as a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
- Only elderly people get Alzheimer’s. This topic has already been touched on, earlier in this article. It is true, per dementiatoday.com, that one out of eight people 65 and over have Alzheimer’s. It’s also true that the disease has struck hundreds of thousands of people under the age of 60, including people in their 40s and 50s, and even younger. This is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which in many cases has been shown to have a genetic link.
- Depression is a cause of Alzheimer’s. Depression can be an early symptom of the onset of Alzheimer’s, but it has not yet been proven that the depression itself causes the disease. Furthermore, not everyone who suffers from depression is doomed to a later life of Alzheimer’s. Per dementiatoday.com, the link between the two conditions, such as any cause-and-effect connection, remains unclear.
- There is a test for Alzheimer’s disease. Not so, health experts say. No blood or imaging test can be used for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, per everydayhealth.com. In most cases, a diagnosis even today usually involves a matter of elimination – first ruling out all other possible causes for the symptoms, and Alzheimer’s is left “standing” as the last suspected cause. Typically, it’s not until after a patient has died and an autopsy is performed to find physical markers – such as lesions – of Alzheimer’s that a final, valid diagnosis can be made.