Everyone notices that as we get older, there is a decline in our memory abilities. Suddenly, we forget to buy certain items at the grocery store, we can’t remember where the heck we put our glasses, and what was the name of that person you just met?? While a certain amount of memory decline is expected with age, there is a condition affecting many people nowadays called “Alzheimer’s Disease”.
I recently attended a talk regarding Alzheimer’s Disease that was mainly geared towards understanding what a person with Alzheimer’s may be experiencing and being prepared financially for chronic diseases. Dr. Lisa Genova, author of “Still Alice” described what it feels like to undergo the disease during the presentation as well. It made me recall my own grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s towards the end of her life and how my mom and sister found it quite tough to care for her.
As this condition is becoming quite common, I have compiled some quick information about it.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition that leads to significant memory loss, making it very difficult for these people to communicate with others. The circuitry in the brain becomes blocked with clumps of protein called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. It is the most common form of dementia and there is currently no cure. There are medications available to slow the disease, but nothing that will reverse the damage. It usually develops after the age of 65; however, there is a genetic type of the disease where people can get it between 30 and 60. It is much more common in females (72% of cases), and the prevalence is expected to be quite high in the coming years.
Early warning signs include forgetfulness (more than usual and quicker than typical aging), severe feelings of depression, severe mood swings for no reason, confusion, and inability to think and process things as before (such as paying bills). Other signs include difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation in time and place, problems with abstract thinking (such as counting), poor or decreased judgment (such as dressing inappropriately), misplacing things in unusual locations (such as watch in the fridge), changes in personality, and loss of motivation.
As a chiropractor, one symptom we may notice of regular patients is a loss of body mass over time. There is evidence that the loss of BMI in the elderly may clinically predict the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.
There are other conditions that present with dementia as well, so it is important to get checked out early if some of the signs are noticed in order to rule out other causes.
So what are some things we can do to prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Long-term physical activity – exercise helps to slow the protein buildup in the brain
- Engaging in mentally stimulating activities
- Maintaining social networks and social involvement
- Don’t smoke!
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants
- Eating fish and omega-3 fatty acids
- Taking heart health boosters such as garlic, coenzyme Q10 and folate
How can your chiropractor help?
Chiropractors are great at helping you perform at your best. We can make sure that you are able to exercise and perform your activities without pain and to your fullest ability. It is important during exercise that your joints and muscles are moving properly in order to prevent injury. Providing care for any aches and pain that emerge and promoting better body awareness is another role we play. Acupuncture treatment has been suggested to help with cognitive function, and nutritional advice is something we would be happy to give.
It has been found by Robert Vassar of Northwestern University that when the brain doesn’t get enough of the energy source that it needs, changes occur that leads to the clumps of protein that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease. He suggests that improving blood flow to the brain may be an effective therapy to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Based on this information, some chiropractors have suggested that chiropractic neck adjustments may improve the blow flow to the brain and thus, may help prevent/slow this condition. However, as this correlation has not been studied, we have to be careful before jumping to conclusions and to take this hypothesis with a grain of salt.
For those of you who have a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, please remember to take care of yourselves as well. It becomes extremely difficult to watch someone deteriorate in mind and body, so make sure you get the help and therapy you need and to take a rest sometimes. There are many support groups out there for patients and their caregivers as well.