Alzheimer's Disease is the number one cause of dementia (70% of cases). Causes include cardiovascular events whereby there is reduced blood flow to the brain, aging, genetics, etc. Risk factors include older age, family history, having Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), abnormal MRI, history of cardiovascular disease.
Associated with multiple changes including:
- Cognitive Differences ( difficulty finding words, disorientation, forgetfulness etc)
- A reduction in Daily Functioning ( getting lost, neglecting self care)
- Personality Changes ( social withdrawal, disinterest, easy frustration)
- Problem Behaviors ( obsessive/compulsive behavior, nightime restlessness)
- Mental Health Issues ( depression, paranoia, abnormal beliefs, anxiety etc)
To slow the disease:
1. Vitamin E (as dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate) 1000IU twice a day
Based on a large clinical trial published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a 5 year study with more than 600 participants showed that the Vitamin E group, taking 2000IU of Vitamin E per day, experienced significant delay of more than 6 months in progression of the disease (1). On top of that caregiver time also decreased by 2 hours each day which means better quality of life for both the patient and the caregiver.
2. Panax Ginseng or Korean Red Ginseng
The primary active ingredients in ginseng are ginsenosides and there are 7 main ones found in dietary supplements namely Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, Rf and Rg1. Some of them have been shown in laboratories to be able to reduce levels of a compound called amyloid beta peptide which is found in brains of Alzheimer's patients. Moreover it also improves blood flow.
3. Omega-3 Supplements
May improve the appetite and weight gain in Alzheimer's patients. They might even help with reducing depressive symptoms.
4. Lifestyle Changes
This includes finding the right protein, fat, and carb balance. Studies have shown that diet high in lean protein and healthy fats may protect against mild cognitive impairment. On top of that, more exercise not just physically but also mentally are really important. Play more crossword puzzles and reading will reduce the risk of AD. Lastly, make sure to take time to de-stress as chronic stress can increase the amount of stress steroids in your body and this can block brain activities as well as increase risk of AD.
It is important to remember in Alzheimer that heart healthy = brain healthy so prevention is extremely important.
1. Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, et al. Effect of Vitamin E and Memantine on Functional Decline in Alzheimer Disease: The TEAM-AD VA Cooperative Randomized Trial. JAMA.2014;311(1):33-44. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.282834.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research