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Alzheimer’s: An old persons disease? or is it?

Do you lose your keys from time to time, or forget where you parked the car, or worse, meet someone for the first, second or third time and find yourself asking the same question, ‘What’s your name again?’.

The many signs, associated with memory loss, can begin many years before any diagnosis is made. Sometimes the signs and symptoms are difficult to distinguish from that, of normal aging. Memory loss can begin as early, as 40 years of age, but is more commonly seen after the age of 60.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, in 2016 it was the leading cause of death in Australian females, outweighing heart disease for the first time since the early 20th century8 , which was the leading cause of death in  moth males and females.

Dementia is defined as a collection of symptoms affecting the brain. Symptoms such as; loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and physical functioning6.

There are many types of dementia, Alzheimer’s, is the most common form. The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, it has a strong genetic component and the characteristics are similar in the majority of diagnosed cases. The biggest risk factor is, increasing age6.

The first documented case of Alzheimer’s Disease was identified in 1901. It was then, described as a disease of the cerebral cortex, an important part of the brain that governs our Nervous system, voluntary muscle activity, learning, language and memory.

Following the first documented case, the disease was then named, Alzheimer’s disease, after the German psychiatrist, Alois Alzheimer, who was responsible for documenting the first case of Alzheimer’s Disease in 1901.

Since the early 20th Century, the number of diagnosed cases continues to rise. In 2018, there is an estimated 425,416 Australians living with dementia, there are currently 250 people diagnosed with dementia each day6.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, are debilitating diseases, which impact the life of not only, the patient, but also their family and surrounding community.

Is it genetic?

Not necessarily, there are many reported cases where there have been no previous diagnosis in the family.

It is important to keep our brains healthy, being aware that making healthy lifestyle choices, will reduce our risk of experiencing poor health as we age.

How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed?

  • A detailed medical history
  • A thorough physical and neurological examination
  • A test of intellectual function
  • Psychiatric assessment
  • A neuropsychological test
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Lumbar puncture for cerebral spinal fluid tests
  • Medical imaging (MRI, PET)6

These diagnostic tests help eliminate other possible conditions such as; nutritional deficiencies or conditions associated with mood health.

Common symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s

  • Mild cognitive impairment 2-6 years prior to developing Alzheimer’s 1
  • Memory difficulties, particularly of recent events
  • Vagueness in everyday conversation
  • Forgetting well known people and places
  • Emotional unpredictability
  • Deterioration of social skills6

Treatment

Certain medications and treatments may help manage symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, however, there is no cure for the disease4. Many drug trials have failed to demonstrate efficacy at preventing the pathology associated with the disease3.

Let’s look at how we can maintain and improve cognitive function, circulation and memory. Nature’s Sunshine products offer two very well researched and traditionally used herbal products, that may help in the maintenance of a ‘Healthy Brain’.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo has been found to have antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, cardioprotective and vascular benefits to the body.
Ginkgo biloba has been used and studied as a cognitive activator in a variety of populations7. It has been studied in healthy adults with poor memory, people with cerebral insufficiency, age-related memory impairment, Alzheimer’s dementia and adults with no cognitive impairment. The evidence concludes that oral doses of Gingko, improves cognitive function in people with mild to moderate impairment and provides improvement in people with dementia, when used long-term7.

Caution must be taken by those on Warfarin or aspirin.

Capsicum

Capsicum is used traditionally known as a circulatory stimulant8, used to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and to help facilitate the movement of blood to peripheral tissue.
Hot spices, are used around the world for their warming effects on the body, that’s why, Capsicum is highly recommended in those experiencing cold hands and feet. It may help improve peripheral circulation.
Nature’s Sunshine Capsicum capsules are HOT. Each capsule contains a minimum of 40,000 heat units, often referred to as SHU (Scoville Heat Units). Mild chilli peppers have less than 10,000 SHU.

Caution: it is important to ensure 250ml of water is taken with each capsule.

Not recommended with anticoagulants or anti-platelet medications such as warfarin.

May theoretically interfere with anti-hypertensive medication (due to increased catecholamine secretion).

Do not use therapeutic doses during pregnancy.

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare practitioner. If flatulence persists seek medical advice.

 

References

1. Classification and prediction of clinical Alzheimer’s diagnosis based on plasma proteins, Nature Medicine 13, 1359-1362 (2007), Last updated 14 October 2007, https://www.nature.com/articles/nm1653
2. Research Criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease: revising the NINCDS-ADRDA criteria, The Lancet Neurology Volume 6, Issue 8, 734-746 August (2007), Last updated August 2007, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1474442207701783
3. Tau Biology and Tau-Directed Therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease, Drugs Mar;76 (3) 301-313 (2016), Last updated 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26729186
4. 2014, Alzheimer’s at age 30: An ‘Old-Person’s Disease’ Hits a Young Family, everyday HEALTH, 22nd September, https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/my-health-story/alzheimers-at-age-30-an-old-persons-disease-hits-a-young-family/
5. 2007, Alois Alzheimer’s first case, Sb ScienceBlogs™, 2nd November, http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2007/11/02/alois-alzheimers-first-case/
6. Dementia Australia™, Alzheimer’s disease, January 2018, https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia/types-of-dementia/alzheimers-disease
7. Braun, L. Cohen, M. (2015). Herbs and Natural Supplements An evidence based guide. Fourth edition. NSW: Elsevier Australia, p.415-432.
8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) Causes of Death, Australia, 2016(cat. no. 3303.0)