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June 20, 2018  |  Login
Alzheimers Disease
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Many disorders cause symptoms that are quite similar (or even identical) to those of Alzheimer's. Before your doctor makes a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, make sure that he or she rules out the ­ following possibilities:



Heart disease


Allergies, either food or environmental



Metabolic disorders

Nutritional deficiencies of vitamins B12 and folic acid


Brain tumor

Not keeping mentally active (by reading, etc.)

Head injury

Drug abuse


Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that begins with memory loss and eventually leads to dementia and death. In the United States, it affects up to 10 percent of people over sixty-five and almost half of those over eighty-five. Scientists predict that in the coming years, these percentages are likely to rise. Such an increase, combined with the rapidly growing size of the older population, could very well result in an epidemic of Alzheimer's cases.

Alzheimer's disease targets a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is the seat of memory and intellect. In a person with Alzheimer's, the neurons in the ­ hippocampus become entangled. The resulting formations, often called plaque, result in the loss of brain cells, especially those that make new memories and retrieve old ones. And memory problems characterize the symptoms of Alzheimer's.In the beginning stages of the disease, people will experience some mild memory problems. They may struggle with complex tasks like planning a party or balancing a checkbook. As the disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember events that occurred very recently-say, the day before, or even just a few hours prior to the present time. Memory loss at this point looks more and more like dementia: affected people may not recognize others close to them or be able to recall appropriate words. Eventually, complete dementia sets in. Personal memories disappear and, with them, the ability to recognize beloved people and places. Functional memories also become irretrievable. The person forgets how to perform daily functions, which include getting dressed, brushing the teeth, and using the toilet. Hallucinations or episodes of violence often attend this stage of the disease. At this point, it is rarely possible for a family member or a close friend to look after the sufferer, who needs twenty-four-hour-a-day care.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer's, largely because no one is quite sure of the cause. Heredity certainly plays a factor, but as with most inherited diseases, a certain gene probably does not result in Alzheimer's all on its own: it is likely that ­ environmental causes must be present as well. The most promising research into Alzheimer's has discovered that free radicals (the unbalanced molecules that destroy or damage cells of the body) play a significant role in the disorder. Since we know that good nutrition and herbal therapies effectively prevent and fight much free radical damage, it's wise for anyone in the early stages of Alzheimer's (or who has a family tendency toward the disease) to follow the recommendations given here. Environmental toxins seem to be an important factor as well. Although the link between Alzheimer's to toxins like aluminum and mercury has not been firmly established, it is certainly prudent to avoid these poisonous substances as a preventative measure. In addition, stress appears to be a major factor with the development of this ­ disease. Many researchers also feel that prolonged elevation of the stress hormone cortisol is a major causative factor. And finally, elevated levels of the protein metabolism by-product homocysteine is known to contribute to Alzheimer's disease.

Although there is distressingly little that conventional medicine can do for Alzheimer's sufferers, it is very important to see a doctor if you think you may have the disease. One reason is that many elderly people take several different medications at once, and these combinations often result in memory loss, confusion, or even dementia-side effects that can easily be mistaken for those of Alzheimer's. The first step for anyone suffering from memory problems should be a rigorous examination of prescription and other drugs. more

Next: What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

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