Smorgasbord Health Column – The Brain – Part Three – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

The Brain – Part Three – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is actually a collective name for progressive degenerative brain diseases, which affect our memory, thought, behaviour and emotions. It is not a normal result of ageing and it does not seem to have any specific social, economic, ethnic or geographical links. It can effect different people in different ways, which makes it difficult sometimes to diagnose and to treat.

Certain dementia, such as vascular dementia, where plaque is blocking the blood vessels in the brain are linked to lifestyle related causes such as heavy alcohol consumption. Most dementia is likely to have an element of environmental, diet or lifestyle involved in its development.

There is no known cure, but there are ways that we can modify our lifestyle to reduce our risks of brain degeneration and to slow down any process that has already begun.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for around 60% of all cases. The disease is degenerative over a period of years and destroys brain cells and nerve cells causing a disruption to the transmitters, which carry messages in the brain, particularly those that are responsible for our memories.

As the disease progresses, the brain shrinks and gaps develop in the temporal lobe and hippocampus. These areas are responsible for storing and retrieving new information. The damage results in a reduction in a person’s ability to remember events that happened in the short term, to speak, think and to make decisions. All this is both frightening and confusing, as a person will be aware of these lapses in the early stages of the condition.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s

In the beginning, there may be infrequent lapses in memory, forgetting where keys have been left or perhaps failing to switch off electric cookers or other equipment. A person will start to forget the names of everyday objects or people that they are usually very familiar with. They can also suffer from mood swings and panic attacks.

As the disease progresses these symptoms worsen and there is an element of confusion over completing every day tasks such as shopping, cooking and more dangerously driving.
The changes in personality are often attributable to fear and the awareness that something is very wrong. In the earlier stages people tend to try and hide the symptoms. This happens because, much of the time, they will be aware that there is a problem and will not want to accept that this could be as serious a condition as dementia.

In the advanced stages it is not only extremely stressful for the person concerned but also very distressing for their immediate family. We have experience of the problem with a close family friend who was in his 80’s and was looking after his wife who had Alzheimer’s for two years before she went into a home. At that point he was no longer able to cope. She was in danger of hurting herself as she was wandering off in the middle of the night, falling over and hurting herself as well as becoming terrified and disorientated. My own mother in the last two years of her life became increasingly confused but she was nearly 95 when she died. She had family and remained in her own home but for future millions who perhaps have not surviving family it will be a challenge for them and the care services.

What are the risk factors?

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of dementia, but there are several probable links that have been the subject of research in recent years.

There is some evidence of a genetic link to the disease, but that is not proven. Lifestyle most definitely will have played a contributory role as exposure to toxins from smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or work environment will cause damage to the body as a whole and certainly to the brain. There is obviously natural age related degeneration of the entire body and its systems to take into account and any previous head trauma may be part of the problem. There are links to chemical contamination including poisoning from mercury – which can be found in some of the fish that we eat – and also from aluminium, which is most commonly linked to the metal in some of our cooking utensils.

Some recent statistics suggest that at least 10% of those over 65 and 50% of those over 85 years old will be suffering from varying degrees of dementia. We unfortunately have no control over natural ageing, or our genetic background, which means that we should be looking at ways to prevent or minimise the risk of us developing the disease from a much earlier age than our 60’s.

What preventative measures can we take – starting today?

  1. The key factors to reducing your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in particular are very simple and effective.
  2. Your brain is a major organ of the body that requires nutrients to function efficiently and to repair and protect itself. There are specific foods that provide those nutrients and including them in your diet on a very regular basis will be effective.
  3. You need to keep your heart and arterial system clear of oxidised LDL cholesterol and working efficiently to enable vital nutrients and oxygen to reach the brain. However, cholesterol is essential for the body and is involved in many processes including the production of hormones and therefore brain function. Reducing total cholesterol can therefore impact your brain health. Healthy fats are essential in various forms.
  4. You must work the brain as you would any muscle in your body. Stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them and may even create new nerve cells.
  5. We all need people around us and it is even better if we involve ourselves in activity that requires mental and physical co-ordination.
  6. Physical exercise maintains healthy blood flow to all our organs including the brain where it will prolong the health of existing brain cells by preventing any further damage.

The one way to deal with an overwhelming fear is to face it and take control of it. For me that has meant a radical change in lifestyle. At one time I smoked over 40 cigarettes a day and drank more than was good for me. My diet was atrocious and I was morbidly obese. I was certainly in a high-risk category for declining brain health, if I had lived long enough to develop the disease.

That is not to say that you have to totally abstain from everything that gives you pleasure. We only have one life and whilst I am totally anti smoking these days, I do believe that we should balance our lifestyle with our pleasures factored in. You will often find me quoting my 80/20 rule. If you follow a healthy lifestyle 80% of the time and the other 20% indulge yourself a little then you will be on the right track.

Reduce the Risk

  • Good Nutrition and hydration.
  • Low levels of plaque in our arteries so that oxygen can get to the brain
  • Exercise your brain as well as your body
  • Social interaction

Next time – Key nutrients for brain health.

©sallygeorginacronin 1999-2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from:  http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

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40 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – The Brain – Part Three – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Thank you Sally, this is a very informative post, especially about what we can do now to try and help ourselves in later life. As you know I am a full time carer for both of my elderly parents. Mom has had Cognitive Degeneration for well over three years now, that combined with Sundowning has meant a stressful time for all. At our recent hospital visit for the suspected pneumonia, the Dr’s wrote “undiagnosed Dementia” on Mom’s file. I had suspected that we had now entered into the world of Dementia a few months ago as things have been changing. My Dad has recently become a little forgetful and is getting things a little mixed up so I am suspecting a touch of Dementia here too. Mom has barely drank alcohol and never smoked. As a retired nurse she was on her feet 12 hours a day, born and brought up in rural Ireland farming community. She is still so healthy, no medication for anything bless her. I’ve learnt to just go with the flow, no-one gets stressed out if we just take things as they come each day. Sorry for going on! Dawn x

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am sorry that you have such a challenging situation Dawn.. your mother I assume has had a clear diagnosis of her degeneration… as to your father being a little forgetful, perhaps it might be a good idea to rule out any other cause for that confusion such as a urine test to detect a urinary tract infection which can result in confusion and can go undetected.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Sally, yes Mom “officially” has Cognitive Degeneration and Sundowning. They have both just completed their second batch of antibiotics and appear to have recovered well so far. I had a chat with the Dr regarding Dad’s recent memory lapses. It’s possible it could be down to the stress/anxiety surrounding Mom’s recent emergency admission to hospital, both of them getting chest infections and we know what antibiotics can do to the good bacteria. I’ve to keep an eye on things. I have to say, two days antibiotic free I can already see an improvement to alertness xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great hope that continues.. I would suggest that you your father takes a high count probiotic.. now that he has finished his antibiotics. there are some now that are stomach acid resistent and are efficient..If you are near a Holland & Barrett they have a good range. That will help restore the balance. If he like pickles.. such as pickled onions that would be great and then some fibre foods such as a banana, apple with the peel, onions and baked beans. That will provide the prebiotic element needed. good luck and do let me know how things go… XX

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for the advice Sally. They have both had another chest infection each…more antibiotics and now Dad has a viral infection. The antibiotics have cleared the bacterial infections but do appear to have knocked his system about somewhat, especially with all the other medication he takes. He eats onions and baked beans regularly. I’ll get him some stomach resistant probiotic and hopefully he’ll be back on form soon xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I may have read this post before, Sally, but everything in it bears repeating and a reminder is always a good thing when it comes to the things we can do for our brain health. I’ve been reading a lot lately about the gut biome and the links between gut health and many of the diseases we commonly associate with aging, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s all fascinating. Thanks for the repost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Amy..we reade so much and I try to update when possible with new research that has been published… Everything within our body is interconnected to one degree or another. Making those the connections is going to be a major task but will pave the way to better health.. provided the industrially processed foods get us first… xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health: Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease – The Militant Negro™

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – The Brain – Part Three – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  5. Such important tips here Sal. I’ll also that since mercury can play a part in Dementia development, silver fillings may also play a part. I had all my silver fillings extracted and replaced with the ‘white stuff’ 20 years ago. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the info on Alzheimer’s and dementia. I lost both my mother and mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s; it’s such a cruel disease. I didn’t realize until after my mystery novel, Going Home, was published that so many people have been affected by this horrible condition.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent work Sally…. it is so informative. Please god it never happens but at least I know what to look out for now and how to keep the brain active. Pxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just a reminder here from a retired Registered Nurse: Before accepting a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, it is critically important to rule out other illnesses whose effects can be misdiagnosed as “normal age-related” cognitive changes. These include megaloblastic anemia (especially pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease), obstructive sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism (especially Hashimotos’s thyroiditis, another autoimmune disease). Each of these three disorders can wreak havoc with the brain and nervous system, regardless of how hard a person may work at having a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, all three conditions can coexist in the same individual. Few doctors are going to think about these possibilities, so you must insist on getting the proper comprehensive diagnostic tests done (many doctors will settle for shortcut “screening” tests, which can miss clinically important information), and treatment, if necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you mentioned the problem of urinary tract infections. UTIs are a very common complication of urinary incontinence, which has also been mistakenly labeled as a normal aspect of aging. Poor oxygenation due to sleep apnea has ill effects on the heart, kidney function, and bladder muscles that result in urinary incontinence, which treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can alleviate. (CPAP benefits are dose dependent, meaning that for best results, users of the equipment must achieve better than minimal compliance.)

        Iron deficiency anemia (which can be primary, or secondary to pernicious anemia), is also involved in the development of sleep apnea. Treating anemia will not necessarily eliminate sleep apnea, and treating apnea will not be all that’s needed to cure anemia, although the two do seem to have a kind of mutual cause-and-effect relationship (the anatomy, physiology and chemistry of which are a bit too complicated for a blog comment).

        It was once thought that autoimmune conditions were uncommon, which is why so many doctors still miss making correct diagnoses, but since the mapping of the human genome, it has been discovered that they are not rare. In fact, current research indicates they are associated with the influence of the Homo neanderthalensis genes that are mixed with the Homo sapiens genes in our DNA.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree Christine… For the last five years I repeated my series on the body, its major organs and diseases every year in one guise or another. Including blood health. I have worked with clients with both Iron deficiency and Pernicious Anaemia and it is amazing how much more we know now that we did when I first started out 20 years ago. Whilst my primary role was to ensure that diet and lifestyle supported treatment, it was fascinating to study the ongoing research. The same can be said for most health issues with the increasing data on both symptoms and also the complexities of the relationship between two or more unrelated set of symptoms. From a genetic standpoint I am fascinated with the research and had my DNA tested twice.. this time around as part of mapping my own families health history back as far as I can.. obviously not as far as the Neanderthals, but even in four generations there are some interesting connections mainly through the mitochondrial DNA. My first test was 18 years ago though the Cambridge DNA programme and it linked me to a set of bones of a woman aged at 20,000. She was about 40 when she died which was old for that time but she was riddled with osteoarthritis. 20,000 years is in fact only two mutation cycles in human DNA terms so not hard to understand why my mother had it, and I have it.. Anyway… thanks for your detailed comment and I am sure the readers will find interesting.. best wishes Sally

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – The Brain – Part Three – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease | Campbells World

  10. PressedThis at campbellsworld.wordpress.com

    With the following comment.

    Hello.

    Glad you’ve stopped into campbellsworld for another visit.

    This morning we have the next part in what has been a fascinating health column read.

    Since experiencing brain damage due to an abusive relationship turned mega dangerous and two brain spasms last year while recovering from illness, this column is very important to me.

    I need to keep my brain as healthy as possible so that even with its damage it can function to the highest of its ability.

    Thanks Sally for this magnificent post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up- William Price King sings, Paul Andruss and Hellebores and Carol Taylor and Mustard. | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  12. Thank you for all this information, Sally. This disease frightens me. My dad had amyloid disease so the doctor said which was the beginning of Alzheimer’s when he passed at 79, less than three months of his 80th. Five of the seven children in his family had Alzheimer’s. Only two are still living. They are healthy and do not as yet have it. It can be heriditary, right? I do all I can do keep my mind active, eat right and exercise. I pray that I stay healthy. Hugs to you xx

    Like

  13. Reblogged this on Retired? No one told me! and commented:
    Just like we have one body we also have one brain and that brain reacts just like our body to the food we eat…I like many others I know have a fear of getting Dementia/Altziemers and although there is no known cure yet we can help ourselves and give us the best chance of a healthy brain…So don’t wait for what many of us see is the inevitable READ Sally’s informative post and help yourself …She is giving you the tools and knowledge…I know I will…Will you?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: CarolCooks2…Weekly Roundup…B12, 5G, Plastic, Recycling, Recipes and more… | Retired? No one told me!

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