Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affect a person’s ability to function independently.
Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. Of those, 80% are 75 years old and older. Out of the approximately 50 million people worldwide with dementia, between 60% and 70% are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease.
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The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Medications may temporarily improve or slow the progression of symptoms. These treatments can sometimes help people with Alzheimer’s disease maximize function and maintain independence for a time. Different programs and services can help support people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.
No treatment cures Alzheimer’s disease or alters the disease process in the brain. In the advanced stages of the disease, complications from severe loss of brain function — such as dehydration, malnutrition, or infection — result in death.
Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Early signs include difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairments worsen and other symptoms develop.
At first, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may be aware of having difficulty remembering things and organizing thoughts. A family member or friend may be more likely to notice how the symptoms worsen.
Brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease lead to growing trouble with:
Everyone has occasional memory lapses, but the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and worsens, affecting the ability to function at work or home.
People with Alzheimer’s may:
- Repeat statements and questions over and over
- Forget conversations, appointments, or events, and not remember them later
- Routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations
- Get lost in familiar places
- Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects
Have trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts, or take part in conversations
Thinking and reasoning
Alzheimer’s disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts such as numbers.
Multitasking is especially difficult, and it may be challenging to manage finances, balance checkbooks, and pay bills on time. Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s may be unable to recognize and deal with numbers.
Making judgments and decisions
Alzheimer’s causes a decline in the ability to make reasonable decisions and judgments in everyday situations. For example, a person may make poor or uncharacteristic choices in social interactions or wear clothes that are inappropriate for the weather. It may be more difficult to respond effectively to everyday problems, such as food burning on the stove or unexpected driving situations.
Planning and performing familiar tasks
Once-routine activities that require sequential steps, such as planning and cooking a meal or playing a favorite game, become a struggle as the disease progresses. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer’s often forget how to perform basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.
Changes in personality and behavior
Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect moods and behaviors. Problems may include the following:
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Distrust in others
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Loss of inhibitions
- Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen
Many important skills are preserved for longer periods even while symptoms worsen. Preserved skills may include reading or listening to books, telling stories and reminiscing, singing, listening to music, dancing, drawing, or doing crafts.
These skills may be preserved longer because they are controlled by parts of the brain affected later in the course of the disease.
When to see a doctor
Several conditions, including treatable conditions, can result in memory loss or other dementia symptoms. If you are concerned about your memory or other thinking skills, talk to your doctor for a thorough assessment and diagnosis.
If you are concerned about thinking skills you observe in a family member or friend, talk about your concerns and ask about going together to a doctor’s appointment.
Not only will consuming fruits and vegetables provide seniors with nutrition, but these are also foods that could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Juicing is an easy and delicious way to serve up a senior a nutritious and brain-boosting meal.
Juicing for Alzheimer’s
A 2006 study from Vanderbilt University found that drinking fruit and vegetable juices more than three times a week can cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 76%. Many fruit and vegetable juices contain polyphenols, which is a chemicals found in foods with antioxidants. These superfoods have the power to interrupt the process in the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s and offers some protection against neurodegenerative disease. For more information please visit Pritish Kumar Halder ‘s page.
Juicing is a fairly easy process and starts with a simple trip to the grocery store. Here are some brain-boosting superfoods that are juiceable:
With National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month upon us, attention continues to focus on new approaches to cognitive health in an aging population. Now, research with grape polyphenols presented today at Neuroscience 2007 in San Diego shows promise for maintaining long-term cognitive health. The researchers will now focus on grape polyphenols and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at the newly established Center for Research in Alternative and Complementary Medicine in Alzheimer’s disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM).
Two recent population studies associated moderate red wine and 100 percent fruit juice consumption with lowering the risk of AD dementia (wine) or delay in AD onset (juice). Adding further weight to those studies is the research presented by Dr. Lap Ho at Neuroscience 2007, which demonstrated the potentially protective effect of Concord grape juice and Cabernet Sauvignon polyphenols to slow beta-amyloid neuropathology.
A characteristic hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease-type neuropathology is the accumulation of beta-amyloid peptides and their formation into plaques in the brain. Dr. Ho at MSSM found that polyphenol extracts from Cabernet Sauvignon and Concord grape juice reduced the generation and accumulation of beta-amyloid peptides in experimental models of Alzheimer’s disease.
“This grape polyphenol research is preliminary but very encouraging,” said Dr. Giulio Pasinetti, director of the new center and principal investigator of the research program in polyphenolics at MSSM. “The results show the potential protective role which non-alcoholic, polyphenol-rich Concord grape juice may play in maintaining long-term cognitive health.”
Previous work by Dr. Pasinetti’s group at MSSM reported that moderate consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon wine had reduced AD-type neuropathology and prevented cognitive decline in a transgenic mouse model, yet counseled that even moderate intake of alcohol may carry health risks, particularly with an older population.
Currently, it is estimated that five million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with the number projected to reach 11 to 16 million by the year 2050. However, delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by five years is estimated to potentially reduce the number of projected cases by 50 percent. Ongoing studies directed by Dr. Pasinetti at the new center will provide critical information about the functional role of selected grape-derived polyphenols in the prevention and/or attenuation of cognitive deterioration of Alzheimer’s disease.