The dementia antidote – Can the patients and caregivers look forward to it?

The Alzheimer’s Association released its annual report ‘Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures’ and it emphasised on the burden of Alzheimer’s dementia on caregivers, individuals, government and on the entire health care system. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th biggest cause of death in the US and 18.1 million people in the US offer unpaid care to people suffering from dementia. Such caregivers offer around 19.4 billion hours of care which has been evaluated to more than $234 billion. Research also reveals that 1 in 3 seniors die of Alzheimer’s dementia and this disease kills more than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.

Dementia, as you know, is a general term which is used for the physical condition where there is a decline in mental ability and with time it gets severe enough to start hampering your daily life as well. Memory loss is one of the most common sufferings that come with dementia. Home caring has expanded as a business idea to take care of the seniors suffering from this degenerative brain disorder. Scroll down to know more on this disease and whether or not there is a cure to it.

A little bit on dementia

Dementia is not the term given to a definite disease but it is an umbrella term which describes multiple symptoms that are related to the decline in memory power, thought processes and even an individual’s ability to perform regular activities. Alzheimer’s accounts for 80% of the memory loss cases. Another form of dementia is vascular dementia which often occurs soon after a person suffers from a stroke and this is probably the second most common kind of dementia. However, you need to know that there are several other reasons that may lead to dementia like vitamin deficiencies and thyroid issues.

Most often, the term dementia is inappropriately referred to senile dementia which implies the widespread idea (which is not correct) that mental decline is a natural part and parcel of aging. This is not the fact.

Dementia symptoms – Memory loss and many more

The symptoms that the patients may face can vary according to patients. But minimum 2 of the below mentioned mental functions has to be damaged in order to classify it as dementia.

  • Language and communication
  • Memory
  • Visual perception capability
  • Judgment and reasoning
  • Capability to pay attention and focus

Dementia sufferers might have issues with keeping a tab on their wallet or purse, planning meals, preparing them, paying their bills on time, remembering their doctor appointments and even traveling out of their comfort zone.

There are several forms of dementias which are progressive enough which means that the symptoms begin to show slowly but with time they start getting worse. If you know someone who is suffering from the strongest symptoms of dementia, don’t ignore. Take her to a doctor or a health professional and start offering treatment and care. With early diagnosis, you can get maximum benefit of preventing the disease from spreading.

Treating dementia – Is immunotherapy a solution?

Immunotherapy is a process where the body’s own immune system which defends itself against all diseases is improved. This is one of those approaches which have proved to be extremely beneficial for several other issues like cancer. In case of dementia, there have been studies which utilized vaccines against the unusual proteins which start building up in the brain as a part of the Alzheimer’s. On the contrary, there are other studies which have used monoclonal antibodies (which are man-made) and which trigger the abnormal proteins to aggravate the spread of the disease.

One more area which has been explored by the researchers is the specialized immune cells inside the human brain which are known as microglia. These are the cells which are responsible for eliminating all the debris within the brain. When a person develops Alzheimer’s, these cells get overactive and this leads to brain damage. There are ongoing studies which are trying to recognize the ways in which you can prevent this from happening.

How to identify who is at the highest risk of dementia

Experts are of the opinion that the damage that Alzheimer’s disease caused to the human brain starts off several years before the symptoms actually show. In case the people who are most susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s can be recognized at a rather early stage, the treatments that could be offered would certainly aggravate the speed of progress or even at times stop the disease totally.

PREVENT, a major study, focuses on people in between the age of 40 and 50 to understand who are the most vulnerable to incurring Alzheimer’s in the near future. This study has the goal of understanding all that is happening inside the brains way before the symptoms start appearing. There are special brain scans called PET scans which examine the 2 proteins- tau and amyloid in the brains of those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Their aim is to develop the understanding of the process of this disease and providing the best drugs and medicines as a feasible treatment.

The highly advanced PET scans are available only as a part of clinical trials. Nevertheless, there are a number of trials which currently being done to be able to detect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia way ahead of time.

It is important to prevent the disease

Even though the scientists and researchers may find a compelling cure for dementia, it would definitely be better if they could prevent this disease from developing at the first place. Research reveals that the consequences of stroke and heart problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity are also the same for dementia. Hence, if a person could either reshape or change them during their mid-life, the risk of developing dementia could reduce by 30%.

Risks of dementia and prevention of the risks

Few risk factors for this disease like genetics and age can’t ever be changed. Nevertheless, researchers keep exploring the effect of other risk factors on the health of your brain in order to prevent dementia. Here are few risk prevention factors you should keep in mind.

  • Cardiovascular risks

The richest network of blood cells nourish your brain and if there’s anything that hampers these blood vessels anywhere in your body, this can also tamper the blood vessels in your brain thereby depriving it of oxygen and essential foods. Whenever there are changes of blood vessel in your brain, this can be linked with vascular dementia. If you could protect your brain with the similar strategies that you take to safeguard your heart like quitting smoking, keeping a check on your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol, you could possibly prevent dementia as well.

  • Maintaining your diet

What you put inside your stomach has a direct relation with the health of your brain. It is through good heart health that you can also improve the health of your brain. You can opt for the heart-healthy eating patterns like following a Mediterranean diet as they may also protect your brain. This form of diet includes whole grains, red meat, vegetables and fruits, shellfish and fish, olive oil, nuts and other healthy fats.

  • Physical exercise

If you can perform regular physical exercise, this can reduce the risk of several other kinds of dementia. There are several researches which prove that exercise can directly have a good impact on your brain cells by enhancing the oxygen and blood flow to your brain.

Reversing memory loss – Few competent steps

There is good news that now it is possible to reverse cognitive decline and dementia. From that perspective, there are few strategies that you can take in order help patients prevent and reverse dementia. Let’s check them out.

  • Go for low glycemic diet and try to maintain a balance in your levels of blood sugar by having more of whole grains. Eliminate all the bad stuff like sugar, refined carbs, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, processed foods or omega-6 rich oils and put in the good stuff like walnuts, avocados, almonds, cashews, olive and coconut oil, eggs and pastured chicken.
  • Healthy fats will make your brain happy and you can have omega 3 fats which are found in fatty fish. Have whole eggs, avocados, seeds and nuts.
  • It is important to workout daily even if that means walking for 30 minutes. If possible, you can incorporate HIIT or high-intensity interval training or even weight lifting. More physical activity could slow down the progression of brain disorders like dementia and cognitive decline.
  • Try to keep a tab on your sex hormone and thyroid levels. In case you find out that they’re not in balance, you should treat them.
  • Get 8 hours of sound sleep at night. Studies reveal that sleep is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.

Professor De Strooper reported to Daily Express that there will be a cure in the next 10 years. They even hope that cure can even come earlier than that. The cure is more like cancer where you won’t have any hope for treatment when cancer has spread over the body. It has to be treated at the beginning.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.