Updated 18 June 2014

Alzheimer’s disease – incurable but preventable

A report by the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that in 2013 approximately 5.4 million people in the USA had Alzheimer’s disease, and that it is their 6th leading cause of death.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

It is estimated that a healthy adult brain has approximately 100 billion neurons or nerve cells and about 100 trillion synapses, which are specialised structures that allow the neuron to pass chemical pulses to other neurons and other cells.

In AD the functioning of the neurons and synapses is impaired. Information transfer between neurons fails as the number of synapses decline and eventually neurons die. It is believed that certain proteins that accumulate both inside and outside of the neuron play a significant role in the disease.

The three stages

Recently new criteria and guidelines have been published defining AD as having three stages:

1. Pre-clinical AD
2. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to AD
3. Dementia due to AD

The pre-clinical stage is thought to begin 20 years or more before any symptoms such as memory loss appear. However, even at this early stage certain biomarkers such as changes in the brain, cerebrospinal fluid or blood are evident.

In people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), changes in thinking function are noticeable to family and friends. Although these changes may be mild, and do not affect the person’s ability to carry out everyday activities, they are measureable.

Research shows that between 10 and 20% of people 65 or older have MCI. Sadly, it appears that almost 50% of people who visit a doctor with symptoms of MCI will go on to develop AD within the space of three to four years.  

People with dementia (due to severe AD) have significant shrinkage in the size of the brain from the loss of cells.

Symptoms of AD

Some of the more common symptoms of AD include:

• Memory loss severe enough to disrupt daily life
• Difficulty in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty in undertaking familiar tasks
• Being confused about time or place
• Difficulty in understanding visual images and dimensions
• The onset of problems relating to words, either in speaking or writing
• Losing things and being unable to retrace steps
• Signs of an increase in poor judgment
• Disinclination to participate in work or social activities
• Mood and personality changes

Metabolic Syndrome – the link to dementia and Alzheimer’s

Research clearly reveals that people with the well-recognised chronic condition of Metabolic Syndrome, are at significantly greater risk of developing AD than people with normal metabolism. If AD is a Metabolic Syndrome-associated condition, then this must point to AD having a similar root cause.

The key factors (according to research) appear to be high blood sugar levels and insulin: A large Dutch study that investigated the prevalence of dementia in older persons with Type 2 diabetes (one of the Metabolic Syndrome conditions) found that having diabetes doubled the risk of dementia, while those using insulin to control Type 2 diabetes were associated with a 400% greater risk.  

Two Harvard neurologists add that evidence shows ‘attendant therapeutic implications’: in other words, eliminating or significantly reducing sugar and refined carbohydrate and increasing good fats in the diet may play a key role in preventing or delaying the onset of AD. More research is needed, but the signs are clearly evident.

If you would like help to modify your lifestyle and reduce your risk of developing the chronic lifestyle diseases associated with Metabolic Syndrome, including Alzheimer’s, visit a Dis-Chem pharmacy, get tested and get help. Met-S Care works with Dis-Chem Pharmacies to empower people living with Metabolic Syndrome to take control of their condition.



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