Azheimer's Disease (also known as "Old Timer's Disease"
Incidence and Symptoms
Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly and is the fourth leading cause of death in developed nations (after heart disease, cancer, and stroke). Up to 70% of dementia cases are due to Alzheimer's disease, with blood vessel disease (stroke, atherosclerosis) being the second most common cause. The frequency of Alzheimer's among 60-year-olds is about 1%. The incidence doubles approximately every 5 years, becoming 2% at age 65, 4% at 70, 8% at 75, 16% at 80, and 32% at 85. It is estimated that as many as two thirds of those in their 90s suffer from some form of dementia. For those who aspire to live a very long life, dementia is a threat second only to death-or is death in another form.
Alzheimer's disease is incurable. It leads to death within an average of 8 years after diagnosis, the last 3 of which are typically spent in an institution. Besides memory loss, Alzheimer's patients show dramatic personality changes, disorientation, declining physical coordination, and an inability to care for themselves. In the final stages, victims are bedridden, lose urinary and bowel control, and suffer epileptic attacks. Death is usually due to pneumonia or urinary tract infection.
It appears that Alzheimer's disease begins with gradual accumulation of beta-amyloid peptide in the form of diffuse plaques which, through glycation and oxidation evolve into senile plaques. Certain neurons with high metabolic demands or special sensitivity to beta-amyloid develop neurofibrillary tangles, which are even more destructive than beta-amyloid deposits. These neurons may include those in nuclei outside of the cerebral cortex which activate the cortex with modulatory neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. Such nuclei are normally nurtured by Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) traveling down the axons, but the NGF may be replaced by beta-amyloid, which leads to neurofibrillary tangles. Degenerating neurons activate the immune/inflammatory system which activates cytokines, such as interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. Interleukin-1 increases the toxicity and interleukin-6 increases the production of beta-amyloid. A vicious cycle of inflammation and beta-amyloid production-along with glycation and oxidation of tau-protein and beta-amyloid-ultimately results in the destruction of large numbers of brain cells.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive form of dementia primarily affecting people over 60. The disease is incurable and leads to death within about 8 years. The acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, tacrine and donepezil, are the only currently approved drugs by the FDA in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Both drugs can reverse symptoms by several months but cannot slow the progress of neuron degeneration. Certain natural supplements taken in combination with and without prescription medication may reduce the likelihood of the disease or delay its onset, or slow its progress.
Treatment Protocols 1 to 4 provide recommendations on the use of several natural substances, including the following:
- Vitamins E, C, coenzyme Q10, and melatonin to protect against free radical beta-amyloid activity.
- Gingko biloba for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cerebral circulation properties.
- Estrogen replacement in postmenopausal women only, to reverse the effects of reduced choline uptake in the frontal cortex and hippocampus and a decline in mRNA for Nerve Growth Factor.
- NSAIDs to reduce inflammation leading to final neurodegenerative processes.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine to reduce disease progression by means of normalizing cell metabolism, increasing NGF utilization, and increasing acetylcholine synthesis.
For more information: Contact the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, 800-438-4380. You may also contact The Alzheimer's Prevention Foundation, which is in Tucson Arizona 520-749-8374 and another office in Great Falls Virginia 703-759-4320.