Part I - What is Alzheimer's Disease and What causes it
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a type of dementia. Dementia is an acquired persistent impairment of intellectual function with compromise in at least 3 of the following mental aspects: language, memory, visuospatial skills, executive function, personality and cognition. AD is by far the most common of the types of dementia accounting for over 50% of cases, 6% of patients above 65 years of age and 15-20% of patients older than 80. Death occurs in about 7-10 years of onset usually due to complications such as pneumonia, after affected patients have been robbed of normal life and savings, as they are unable to care for themselves. It is estimated that 5.1 million Americans may have AD, with twice more affected women than men; however, with females living longer with the disease compared to males. Currently, it is accepted that causes of AD are unknown, but generally associated with age-related changes to the brain including atrophy, inflammation, production of free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction. In certain conditions, such as individuals with trisomy 21 who survive beyond 45 years of age, AD becomes a reality. From this, we can conclude that genetics play a role on development of AD, but metabolic and vascular conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, dyslipidemia and obesity are major factors. For example, mid-life hypertension and DM type 2 increase the risk of AD of about twofold. Researchers have been referring to AD as Type 3 diabetes considering the marked decrease in insulin and insulin-growth factors along with decreased acetylcholine in AD patients. On the other hand, smoking up-regulates cholinergic nicotinic receptors in the brain, reducing other receptors, not to mention the effects of oxidative stress of smoking. Several recent studies created a link between dietary/nutritional deficits and development of AD: sugars and nitrates are implicated, as well as high intake of carbohydrates and sugars, high-fructose corn syrup and salt. We must remember here that those items are actually consider daily components of SAD (Standard American Diet). I have done some research on protective factors considered important in reducing the risk of AD which I will share with you shortly. In the mean time, sleep well, eat fresh foods, maintain a regular exercise program and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol.