Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities. It is a prion disease of the brain caused by 2 proteins: prion isoforms of tau and amyloid-beta.
Alzheimer's disease is "characterised by loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex and certain subcortical regions. This loss results in gross atrophy of the affected regions, including degeneration in the temporal lobe and parietal lobe, and parts of the frontal cortex and cingulate gyrus. Some of the primary symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are: memory problems, mood swings, emotional outbursts, brain stem damage which impairs function in the heart, lungs plus causes disruption of various other bodily processes.
An abstract of the medical study entitled Measures to Assess the Noncognitive Symptoms of Dementia in the Primary Care Setting by Brent P. Forester, M.D. and Thomas E. Oxman, M.D. inidcated "Noncognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias include psychosis, mood disturbances, personality changes, agitation, aggression, pacing, wandering, altered sexual behavior, changed sleep patterns, and appetite disturbances. These noncognitive symptoms of dementia are common, disabling to both the patient and the caregiver, and costly."
According to the Center for Neuro Skills:
|“||Kolb & Wishaw (1990) have identified eight principle symptoms of temporal lobe damage: 1) disturbance of auditory sensation and perception, 2) disturbance of selective attention of auditory and visual input, 3) disorders of visual perception, 4) impaired organization and categorization of verbal material, 5) disturbance of language comprehension, 6) impaired long-term memory, 7) altered personality and affective behavior, 8) altered sexual behavior.||”|
AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. People with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. Over time, symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members or have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. It is possible that AD can spread human to human, as it is a prion disease.
AD usually begins after age 60. The risk goes up as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease. The incubation period of AD is thought to be 40-60 years. This means that you are infected at a young age, but don't show symptoms for a long time. That is why the disease affects the elderly the most.
No treatment can stop the disease. However, some drugs may help keep symptoms from getting worse for a limited time.
Ronald Reagan famously suffered Alzheimer's disease in his later years.
Alzheimer's disease and prevention
There are a number of suspected causes for Alzheimer's disease. The most likely cause for Alzheimer's disease is a prion isoform of a protein called beta amyloid, as well as a prion isoform of tau. They accumulate in the brain and disrupts communication between brain cells.  According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers believe for most people suffering from the disease, genetics, lifestyle, gender and environmental factors are possible contributors.
After the age of 65, the chance of developing the disease double every five years. The Mayo Clinic reported that almost fifty percent of those people who are 85 years or older are affected.
Cognitive decline and diet
The Mayo Clinic states that studies suggest that people who keep mentally and socially active during their lives may decrease their chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. Having a higher education, challenging employment, a mentally-stimulating hobby and an active social life may help reduce the risks. The connection hasn't been explained yet, but it may be because the brain develops more "cell-to-cell connections", thus reducing the impact of Alzheimer's damage.
Religious practices and the progression of Alzheimer's disease
WebMd reported in 2005, "Religious practices and spirituality may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease."
The abstract for the 1990 journal article Spirituality, religion, and Alzheimer's disease published in the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy indicates:
|“||The chaplain's ministry to persons with dementia, often of the Alzheimer's type, is vitally relevant to their clinical well-being. No chaplain should even think that because someone is demented, they can no longer be reached spiritually. While few scientific studies exist, clinical experience and anecdotal accounts suggest that selected pastoral interventions can enhance the quality of life of the mildly, moderately, and even severely demented individual.||”|
The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease have been tragically mistaken for signs of demonic possession. The possibility of demonic possession or oppression is almost non-existent, and should be the last suspicion. If anyone is observed experiencing any conditions suggestive of possession, experienced pastoral care counsellors, mental health and medical professionals, and experts in paranormal phenomena and research, all strongly advise immediately contacting a physician for further evaluation. A medical consultation should always be the first step.
Nun study and Alzheimer's disease
The New York Times reported on the famous Nun Study relating to Alzheimer's disease:
|“||Overall, Dr. Snowdon says, the nuns live significantly longer than other women. Of the 678 in the study, 295 are alive and are all 85 or older. In the Mankato convent alone, there have been seven centenarians, many free of dementia.||”|
The abstract for the 2003 journal article Healthy aging and dementia: findings from the Nun Study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine states:
|“||The Nun Study is a longitudinal study of 678 Catholic sisters 75 to 107 years of age who are members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame congregation. Data collected for this study include early and middle-life risk factors from the convent archives, annual cognitive and physical function evaluations during old age, and postmortem neuropathologic evaluations of the participants' brains. The case histories presented include a centenarian who was a model of healthy aging, a 92-year-old with dementia and clinically significant Alzheimer disease neuropathology and vascular lesions, a cognitively and physically intact centenarian with almost no neuropathology, and an 85-year-old with well-preserved cognitive and physical function despite a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer disease and an abundance of Alzheimer disease lesions. These case histories provide examples of how healthy aging and dementia relate to the degree of pathology present in the brain and the level of resistance to the clinical expression of the neuropathology.||”|
Research and progress
A great amount of time and money is continuing to go into the search for a prevention and cure for Alzheimer's disease. Although there is still no cure, some research is showing some promising results. For a while, Aluminum was suspected to cause or exacerbate the disease. If this is true, Fluoride which is common in treated water and toothpaste would also be a concern, since it strongly attracts aluminum. Since fluoride tends to build up in the human body, it will tend to trap aluminum within the body as well. However, this aluminum connection was never fully studied, and is now generally dismissed, although no conclusive proof has been released to either prove or disprove this scientific suspicion.
Recently, research has suggested a surprising link between Alzheimer's disease and the Herpes Simplex 1 virus. In the brains of those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease, there is always found a kind of plaque. Using the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (HSV1), researchers were able to create this same plaque on brain tissue in petri plates. Additionally, applying antiviral medications to the samples proved to slow, stop, and even reverse the plaque formation, depending on the quantity used.
Some may recognize the name Herpes Simplex 1, and for good reason; it is the virus responsible for cold sores. As it turns out, those who report ever having had a cold sore are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who don't. However, many who report never having had cold sores still develop Alzheimer's disease, so the researchers' work is far from done. Some may become infected and not know it, but this does not at all cure this disease yet.
Alternative medical claims
Natural doctors and all others who practice naturopathy also have ideas and research which suggest other causes and cures. Although not conventionally accepted, these causes include:
- Aluminum (unlike conventional medicine, natural healing and prevention still usually suspects this element)
- High sugar consumption
Natural healing can work for both prevention and reversal of illness, but often works best doing the former. Here are some prevention and possibly curative methods sometimes used:
- Vitamin B supplementation (B3 as well as other B vitamins)
- Coenzyme Q10 supplementation
- Resveratrol supplementation (not generally thought to cure, but widely accepted for prevention or slowing the onset)
- Omega-3 fatty acid consumption and/or supplementation
- Consumption of the herb Ashwagandha
- High-protein diet
- and of course, avoidance of suspected causative agents
- Hebert, LE; Scherr, PA; Bienias, JL; Bennett, DA; Evans, DA. “Alzheimer Disease in the U.S. population; Prevalence Estimates Using the 2000 Census.” Archives of Neurology. August 2003; 60 (8): 1119 –1122; National Academy on an Aging Society. “Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: A Growing Challenge.” September, 2000. Graphic used on page 7 of the National Alzheimer's Strategic Plan, March 25, 2009
- Alzheimer's disease - causes, Mayo Clinic
- Alzheimer's disease: risk factors mayoclinic.com, retrieved September 11, 2011
- Religion, Spirituality May Slow Alzheimer's, WebMD, 2005
- Spirituality, religion, and Alzheimer's disease. by SG1, Whitehouse PJ., Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, 1999;8(1-2):45-57.
- Nuns Offer Clues to Alzheimer's and Aging, Nuns Offer Clues to Alzheimer's and Aging], By PAM BELLUCKMAY 7, 2001
- Healthy aging and dementia: findings from the Nun Study', Snowdon DA, Annals of Internal Medicine 2003 Sep 2;139(5 Pt 2):450-4.
- Rothfeld, Glenn. Dr. Glenn Rothfeld's Nutrition & Healing Aug. 2016: 1-4. Print.
- Alzheimer’s Association Official Website
- A National Alzheimer’s Strategic Plan: The Report of the Alzheimer’s Study Group, The National Alzheimer's Strategic Plan was released at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging on March 25, 2009.