What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s is a neuro-degenerative disorder. It is caused primarily due to genetic factors in the majority of the patients. But in certain cases, it may be due to depression, injuries in the head or due to hypertension. The chances of the disease leading to dementia are far higher (1).
When the mental ability declines to the extent of interfering with the daily routine of one’s life cores, it is called dementia.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia wherein the memory power, thinking ability and other functions of the brain deteriorate slowly but steadily.
It is named after the German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer during the year 1906. But the disorder was described by him even earlier.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The disease sets in very slowly and worsens over a period of time. It is a brain disease with a number of symptoms each appearing generally one after the other. It is not directly linked to old age but a vast majority of people affected by the disorder are over 65 years of age.
An early symptom of the disease is short-term memory loss. It is followed by inability to plan as one used to previously and work accordingly. The difficulty is experienced even in carrying out routine and normal household activities which they have been doing regularly.
Some may get confused with the place and time of their work. Confusion and difficulty are experienced in identifying images visually which includes reading or driving. Misplacement of their belongings and finding fault with others for their absence, frequent changes in mood and personality and also shying away from society and avoiding participating in social activities are some of the other symptoms.
The disorder sets in when the brain cells are damaged. Symptoms surface based on the specific region of the brain where the cells are in damaged condition.
How to diagnose the condition?
Diagnosis of the disease is carried out based on the symptoms noticed. There is no singular test available to confirm the disorder. Based on varied tests and behavioral aspects of the person affected the disease is confirmed and treated accordingly so as to prevent quick worsening. Normally a person affected by the disease may live even up to twenty years after the onset of the disorder.
Cure for Alzheimer’s
Presently there is no known cure for the disease even as researchers are undertaken to invent a remedy. Most of the symptoms caused by the disorder are permanent and get worse over time. However, some forms of the memory loss caused due to depression, excessive alcohol consumption, and effects due to higher dosages of medication and vitamin deficiencies can be treated to derive some sort of relief (2).
Even though currently there is no treatment available to cure the disease attempts are made by doctors to lessen the intensity. Different methods are adopted at different stages of the diseases based on the symptoms noticed.
For example in the initial stages medicines are given to retrieve memory if memory loss is the symptom. Similarly when there are behavioral changes in anxiety, depression, restlessness, sleep disturbances etc. appropriate medicines like anti-depressants are given in case non-drug approach does not provide any relief to the person.
Alternative medicine for treating Alzheimer’s
Alternative treatment methods like herbal remedies and dietary supplements are subsequently undertaken. The method of treatment and the duration of the treatment can differ from person to person depending upon the stage of the disorder.
Prevent Alzheimer’s naturally
It is very important to practice preventive measures particularly by those who have a family history of the disease. Others who experience early symptoms should also take preventive measures. One such preventive measure is by adopting appropriate diet program. Normally medicines are administered only during the developed stage of the disorder as each medicine is prescribed based on an elimination process. But a preventive measure presupposes the causes and help in preventing the causes.
The diet prescribed in order to prevent the disorder must be, anti-inflammatory, containing a good amount of anti-oxidants, capable of enhancing the cognitive functions of the brain, improve the neurological functions, and regulate proper blood circulation.
Some of the herbs and food prepared with such herbs can be included as regular diet both to prevent and treat the disorder. Certain herb based food preparations can become superfoods for persons who are vulnerable to the disorder.
Superfoods that can prevent Alzheimer’s
Green and leafy vegetables
Spinach and kale which contain a good amount of folic acid is an excellent food. Folic acid provided by these greens has the potential to stimulate and enhance the cognitive functions. Collard greens and turnip greens also have high folic acid content. Celery, cauliflower, and avocado (3) are also important sources of folates.
Asparagus is another high-density folic acid-containing food which is highly nutrient and delicious too. Lentils, peas, and beans are others that can be added to the food for their folic acid content. Importance of folic acid in promoting the health of the brain can be well understood by the fact that pregnant women are advised to take about 400 mcg of folic acid in order to protect the brain of the baby from birth defects (4).
Consumption of carrots, pumpkin, and blueberries which contain anti-oxidants are very helpful in preventing the disorder. Foods like carrots which provide a high amount of vitamin A are essential to enhance the nervous system.
Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C which is very important for the immune system and to strengthen the body. In addition to this vitamin C helps in preventing depression primarily caused due to the weakness of the body. Red pepper, kiwi fruit, orange fruit, orange juice, grape juice, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and fresh strawberry fruits are rich sources of vitamin C. Inclusion of all or any of these foods in the regular diet will significantly help in preventing Alzheimer’s.
Essential fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids help in preventing neurological disorders and also help in enhancing the cognitive functions. Some foods that contain these polyunsaturated fatty acids are roasted soya bean, flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds (5).
Many berry varieties and dark-skinned fruits which are rich sources of anti-oxidants must be consumed regularly to prevent Alzheimer’s. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums, oranges and red grapes are some such fruits.
Brahmi leaves provide stress relief and a number of cognitive benefits. Two types of Brahmi leaves are available and both are used in traditional medicine (6). The leaves, when consumed regularly either as food or as medicine, has the potential to rejuvenate the mind, increase the memory power and enhance the concentration of the mind all of which prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s beside curing the disorder if already set in. It is an herb considered to promote the subtle awareness i.e., keeping the intellect aware at all times. Since it relieves stress and enhances cognitive function it used to improve the health of the heart too. Moreover, the leaves tone up the nervous system by the twin effect of calming as well as stimulating the nervous system. Much of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s which are age-related are addressed by this herb on regular consumption. One study published in 2006 has confirmed that consumption of Brahmi twice for twelve weeks significantly improved age-related memory loss.
Chocolates and coffee with caffeine and antioxidants present in them are preferred foods to prevent age-related memory loss. Since age-related memory loss could eventually lead to other neurological and cognitive disorders these two tasty foods are helpful both in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s.
Eating habits directed towards improving the health of the heart can indirectly protect the health of the brain also. It is suggested that Mediterranean diet in which whole grains, nuts, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables and certain fish varieties is a heart and brain protector.
Coconut oil and preparations based on it, extract from cinnamon and food which are rich in B vitamins are some of the other safe foods to promote overall health and to particularly enhance the cognitive functions(7).
Consumption of regular quantities of turmeric which contain curcumin is found to increase the cognitive functions (8). It also has the potential to enhance memory power in addition to preventing age-related memory loss.
Research studies and experience of patients have established that a majority affected by Alzheimer’s are known to inherit the disorder. Since there are cases where other health conditions can lead to the disorder selection of appropriate diet will go a long way in protecting a person from the disorder? If the symptoms and diagnosis confirm the disorder treatment given are not only by medicines but also by prescribing specific food in order to avoid such of those food items that could possibly aggravate the disorder.
Foods to be avoided
Red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, sweets, pastries, fried and fast foods are some of the food varieties that need to be avoided in order to prevent the on sett of the disorder as well as to treat the disorder.