All of us, no matter what our age, occasionally experience jogs of memory, irritations while completing normal day-to-day taskings, and changes in the way we behave and feel. It is commonly held that this is a normal part of aging as well. However, it really isn’t and we shouldn’t easily attach blame to age for these conditions if they persist in someone of advancing years.
Forgetting an appointment can simply be a side effect of the daily rush of life. But if someone you love attends an appointment and then forgets they’ve ever even been there, especially in recent memory, you might want to take more notice of how often this occurs.
Plain old distraction can cause someone to forget about a cigarette burning in an ashtray, however it can be a sign of something more serious if someone lights a cigarette in the kitchen, leaves it burning, and then lights another in the livingroom and the bedroom, all within minutes of each other. Problems with language, disorientation, decreased judgment, misplacing things and changes in mood or behaviour, if occurring regularly and in a consistent pattern, can all signal the onset of Alzheimer’s.
These symptoms don’t automatically signal Alzheimer’s because other conditions can have the same effect; depression, reaction to medications, grief, etc. It is prudent, if symptoms persist or worsen however, to see your medical professional as soon as possible for a full assessment.
Alzheimer’s tends to occur more often if there is a history of the condition in your family. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to integrate simple lifestyle changes into your day-to-day activities that can help keep a condition such as Alzheimer’s at bay longer. Please read on.
WHAT, EXACTLY, IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, which causes thinking and memory to become seriously impaired. It is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a syndrome consisting of a number of symptoms that include loss of memory, judgment and reasoning, and changes in mood, behaviour and communication abilities.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses and affects different areas of the brain, vaious abilities become impaired. The result is changes in abilities and/or behaviour. Research is now suggesting that some relearning my be possible once an ability is lost. 1
Currently, it is not known exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, however, what we do know is this:
“All the organs of the body, including the brain, have built-in self-repair mechanisms. Alzheimer’s disease appears to develop when the combined effects of the known and still to be identified influences called “risk factors” cross a certain “threshold”. At this point they overwhelm the natural self-repair and self-healing mechanisms in the brain that normally maintain the nerve cells in a healthy state. If this view is correct, then there is no specific cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but rather it is the additive effects of multiple factors, with aging heading the list.” 3
WHAT ARE THE EARLY SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Symptoms may develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time. If you do notice several symptoms in the list below, the person with the symptoms should see a doctor for a complete examination.
- memory loss that affects day-to-day function
- difficulty performing familiar tasks
- problems with language
- disorientation of time and place
- poor or decreased judgment
- problems with abstract thinking
- misplacing things
- changes in mood or behaviour
- changes in personality
- loss of initiative2
WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS AND ANTIOXIDANTS?
In short, free radicals are normal byproducts of the body’s day-to-day creation of energy from the food we eat. And when we eat properly, and if all is in good working order, we should ingest enough antioxidants (such as vitamins A,C,E, and the minerals zinc and selenium) to take care of any free radicals produced by the body. However, something as simple as a diet high in fats and low in zinc, can increase free radical production and, if you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables which are high in antioxidants, an imbalance begins to occur. Have a look at Nutter’s Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids and Antioxidants Index for sources of antioxidants in your diet.
THE EFFECTS OF OXIDATIVE STRESS, ALZHEIMER’s, AND A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Oxidative stress refers to the threatening situation created when small molecules known as “reactive oxygen species” (ROS) begin to accumulate faster than the body can get rid of them, allowing them to exert their adverse toxic effects on cells everywhere in the body, including the brain. ROS are normal products of metabolism, and can even be used to beneficial ends, for example by the immune system as one way to kill invading organisms. However, as ROS build up they become damaging. Normally ROS are eliminated by special enzymes made by the body’s cells, assisted by the intake in food of natural “anti-oxidants” such as vitamins C and E. But environmental stress, many diseases, some drugs, the “internal” stress generated whenever a person’s health and well-being are threatened, probably most of the risk factors described below, and even A-beta itself (A-beta is the protein regarded as the principal culprit in Alzheimer’s disease, as will become evident in the following sections), all act to increase the production of ROS, and to reduce the efficiency of their elimination by the body. This is oxidative stress. It’s an important contributor to the deterioration of the body’s tissues and cells in aging, and it’s a major component of Alzheimer’s disease. Oxidative stress, therefore, is a key target of Alzheimertreatments, among which a healthy lifestyle is paramount. 4
LIFESTYLE: A KEY FACTOR
Only the genetic risk factors and aging are currently beyond our control. It’s important to understand that what matters is not only how many risk factors a person might be exposed to, but as already mentioned, how efficiently the self-healing processes in his or her brain operate. It seems that the brain’s ability to withstand risk factors and to preserve and even enhance its healing capacity can be enormously helped by adopting appropriate healthy lifestyles. These actually enhance the production in the brain of “growth factors” (more on these later), which promote the ability of brain cells to maintain connections with each other and make new connections. Recent discoveries suggest that healthy lifestyles may even help in the creation of new nerve cells, which is discussed later in the context of brain repair.5
A HEALTHY DIET CAN HELP KEEP ALZHEIMER’S AT BAY
Large epidemiological studies suggest that a heart-healthy diet – low fat, low cholesterol, high fibre, and rich in fruits and vegetables – may prevent Alzheimer’s by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The brain’s high energy output generates large numbers of free radicals that overwhelm internal antioxidant systems which naturally decline with age.
Some Alzheimer’s patients also have certain abnormalities in the mitochondria (tiny cellular energy factories). The relationship between these abnormalities and oxidative damage suggests “an intimate and early association” between these features in AD. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables provide support for quenching free radicals, while low antioxidant levels increase the severity of the disease.
Aging only compounds nutritional problems. As we grow older, our sense of taste and smell is no longer acute – and this reduces appetite. Malnutrition and dehydration may increase confusion and stress, lessen our ability to cope, and trigger physical problems.6
The Alzheimer Society of Canada publishes a “Brainbooster” recipe-of-the-month. Please CLICK HERE to access this month’s feature recipe.
NUTTER’S CAN SUGGEST….
Each serving of antioxidant-packed Blueberry Greens-Force contains 100mg of BlueMax blueberry extract and 1000mg of organic blueberry powder! Why blueberries? Because while Greens-Force meets today’s demands for immune enhancement, energy requirements, protective nutrients and overall good health, the blueberry ingredients in Blueberry Greens-Force are loaded with important bioflavonoids & powerful antioxidants that work on slowing down the aging process. Greens-Force and NEW Blueberry Greens-Force are easy and convenient to use.
Taken every day as a morning drink, the ingredients combine to help you achieve maximum health benefits. Greens-Force and NEW antioxidant-packed Blueberry Greens-Force will help you live the healthy life.
A BUSY BRAIN IS A HEALTHY BRAIN
Exercising the brain with mental activity like reading, playing games, and taking classes are important strategies for preventing Alzheimer’s, particularly as we age. Other researchers suggest engaging in aerobic exercise to improve blood flow to the brain and to keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes under control.
Preventive strategies for Alzheimer’s are most effective when started before or during the early stages of the disease. An anti-aging plan begun while you’re healthy and active is the best insurance against aging conditions including AD.7
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
1. Alzheimer Society of Canada
2. Alzheimer Society of Canada
3, 4, 5. A Report on Alzheimer’s Disease and Current Research
by Dr. Jack Diamond, Scientific Director, Alzheimer Socity of Canada
6, 7. Nutrition, Your Brain
By Marcia Zimmerman, MEd, CN