What is Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, an overall term used to describe conditions where the brain no longer functions correctly. One of the primary symptoms of the disease is memory loss. As we grow older memory loss is experienced to a degree by everyone - it is a normal age related change so if you suffer from this yourself or know of someone suffering from memory loss it does not mean it's as a result of Alzheimer's.
Symptoms of Alzheimers
- Memory loss disrupting daily life
- Difficulty solving familiar problems
- Changes in mood or personality
- Confusion about places, people and dates
- Trouble completing tasks which they once found easy
- Misplacing things
- Problems following or joining in a conversation
- Problems with judgement or decision making
- Withdrawal from friends and family
What causes Alzheimer's?
Contrary to what many believe Alzheimer's isn't a natural consequence of the ageing process, neither is it genetic - only 1% of cases is believed to have a genetic cause. Alzheimer's is a disease which, fortunately for us, means it can be studied to identify what causes it and from there we can develop treatments, hopefully through which we can ultimately prevent it.
Can it be prevented or cured?
Alzheimer's is not a disease that can be reversed but many new studies indicate that it's progression can be slowed down. Numerous studies conducted on Alzheimer's patients have helped us identify potential risks, which include:
- Low levels of physical activity
- High blood sugar
- Low intake of Omega-3 fatty acids
- Low intake of B vitamins
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
While the disease cannot be cured many of the nutritional and lifestyle risk factors which have been identified can be minimised by modifying diet and making the right lifestyle choices.
Supplements have been found to help prevent and slow progress
Research has shown that B-Vitamins can play a significant role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and help slow progression. High homocysteine levels (inadequate intake of B-Vitamins being one cause) in the blood as well as low levels of folic acid and Vitamin B12 (both part of the B-Vitamin family) have been shown to correlate with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Food For The Brain aim to bring forward B-vitamin based therapies as a primary heath strategy for dealing with Alzheimer's - they have called this strategy "Plan B".
How can fish oil supplements help with Alzheimer's?
A low intake of Omega-3 fatty acids has been identified as a potential risk factor for developing dementia and Alzheimer's. Trials in the USA and Germany have shown that supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids have been beneficial. The reason behind this is not yet fully known but the positive effects on Omega-3 fatty acids and brain health and inflammation have long been known and championed. Omega-3s are currently believed to be the most promising treatment for many neurodegenerative diseases not just Alzheimer's.
While not the sole source of Omega-3s, fish oils such as cod liver oil, krill oil and mixed fish oils are nature's richest source. For vegetarians flaxseed oil is one of the richest and most popular alternatives.
Take a test to assess your risk
To find out more about Alzheimer's and to take the online screening test visit www.foodforthebrain.org.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.