Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an on-going decline of the brain and its abilities. About 4-5 million people in the United States have some degree of dementia, and that number is expected to increase over the next few decades with the aging of the population.
Dementia affects about 1% of people aged 60-64 years and as many as 30-50% of people older than 85 years. Dementia is a decline of reasoning, memory, and other mental abilities (the cognitive functions). This decline eventually impairs the ability to carry out everyday activities such as driving, household chores, and even personal care such as bathing, dressing, and feeding (often called activities of daily living, or ADLs).
Your licensed healthcare practitioner will be able to discuss the possible causes of memory loss with you, including dementia.
In the UK around 700,000 people are affected. Your risk of developing dementia increases as you get older, and the condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65.
An early diagnosis can help people with dementia get the right treatment and support, and help those close to them to prepare and plan for the future. With treatment and support, many people are able to lead active, fulfilled lives.
A person with dementia can suffer from the following:
- memory loss
- thinking speed
- mental agility
People with dementia can become apathetic or uninterested in their usual activities, and have problems controlling their emotions. They may also find social situations challenging, lose interest in socializing, and aspects of their personality may change.
A person with dementia may lose empathy (understanding and compassion), they may see or hear things that other people do not (hallucinations), or they may make false claims or statements. As dementia affects a person’s mental abilities, they may find planning and organizing difficult. Maintaining their independence may also become a problem. A person with dementia will therefore usually need help from friends or relatives, including help with decision making.
Other symptoms can include:
- increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
- changes in personality and mood
- periods of mental confusion
- difficulty saying the right words
There are different types of dementia:
Alzheimer’s disease –
This is the most common cause of dementia. During the course of the disease, the chemistry and structure of the brain changes, leading to the death of brain cells.
Vascular dementia –
If the oxygen supply to the brain fails, brain cells may die. The symptoms of vascular dementia can occur either suddenly, following a stroke, or over time, through a series of small strokes.
Dementia with Lewy bodies –
This form of dementia gets its name from tiny spherical structures that develop inside nerve cells. Their presence in the brain leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.
Fronto-temporal dementia –
In fronto-temporal dementia, damage is usually focused in the front part of the brain. Personality and behaviour are initially more affected than memory.
Korsakoff’s syndrome –
Korsakoff’s syndrome is a brain disorder that is usually associated with heavy drinking over a long period. Although it is not strictly speaking a dementia, people with the condition experience loss of short term memory.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease –
Prions are infectious agents that attack the central nervous system and then invade the brain, causing dementia. The best-known prion disease is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD.
HIV-related cognitive impairment –
People with HIV and AIDS sometimes develop cognitive impairment, particularly in the later stages of their illness.
Mild cognitive impairment –
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a relatively recent term, used to describe people who have some problems with their memory but do not actually have dementia.
Researchers have highlighted some important factors that affect our risk of developing different types of dementia. Most now believe that our risk of developing dementia depends upon a combination of genetic and environmental factors. We are all at some risk of developing dementia, but some of us are more at risk than others. However, a person who has some of the risk factors for dementia will not necessarily go on to develop the condition.
Age is the most significant known risk factor for dementia. It is possible to develop dementia early in life, but the chances of developing it increase significantly as we get older. One in 50 people between the ages of 65 and 70 has some form of dementia, compared to one in five people over the age of 80. This increased risk may be due to factors associated with ageing, such as:
- higher blood pressure
- an increased incidence of some diseases (for example, heart disease and stroke)
- changes to nerve cells, DNA and cell structure
- the weakening of natural repair systems.
Gender affects different types of dementia in different ways. Women are slightly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men, even if we discount the fact that women are more likely to live longer. One factor that has been suggested in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is a lack of the hormone oestrogen in women after the menopause. However, controlled studies have suggested that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has no beneficial effect on the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and may even increase a person’s risk of developing the condition. It is not recommended that women take HRT as a way to reduce their risk of developing dementia.
Vascular dementia, on the other hand, seems to be more common in men than women. This may be because common risk factors for vascular dementia, such as heart problems and high blood pressure, are more common in men than women.
Scientists have been aware for some time that the genes we inherit from our parents may partly determine whether we will develop specific diseases. The role of genetics in the development of dementia is still not fully understood, but researchers have made some important advances in recent years.
There are some families in which there seems to be a very clear inheritance of dementia from one generation to the next. This is usually in families where the disease appears relatively early in life. Dementia-causing diseases that may be hereditary in some cases include Huntington’s disease, Familial Alzheimer’s disease (a very rare form of Alzheimer’s) and Niemann-Pick Type C disease.
Certain genes can affect a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists are learning more about these. For example, a gene called apolipoprotein E (ApoE) has been shown to play a part in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. However, having a parent or other relative with later onset Alzheimer’s disease only makes your own chances of developing it a little higher than if there were no cases of dementia in the family at all.
Specific medical conditions can increase a person’s chances of developing dementia. These include multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Down’s syndrome and HIV. Conditions that affect the heart, arteries or blood circulation can particularly affect a person’s chances of developing vascular dementia. These conditions include mid-life high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels, stroke, diabetes, and heart problems such as a heart attack or irregular heart rhythms. Mid-life obesity can also increase a person’s risk of developing dementia in later life.
People who suffer severe or repeated head injuries are at a three-to-four-fold increased risk of developing dementia. It is possible that deposits that form in the brain as a result of the injury may be linked to the onset of dementia. Professional boxers sometimes develop a form of dementia known as ‘dementia pugilistica’.
Diet − Diet can affect a person’s risk of developing many types of illness, including dementia. A healthy and balanced diet that enables a person to maintain a normal body weight is likely to reduce the likelihood of developing high blood pressure or heart disease, both of which put a person at greater risk of developing dementia.
Too much saturated fat can cause narrowing of the arteries, making heart attack or stroke more likely − and heart attacks, stroke and vascular disease increase a person’s risk of developing vascular dementia.
Smoking − Smoking has an extremely harmful effect on the heart, lungs and vascular system, including the blood vessels in the brain. This increases the risk of developing vascular dementia. Despite early studies which suggested that smoking might cause a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, more recent epidemiological research has shown that smoking is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, with smokers almost twice as likely to develop the disease as non-smokers.
Alcohol − People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time increase their risk of developing a form of dementia. However, some research has suggested that moderate amounts of red wine, which contains antioxidants, might help to protect the brain against dementia and keep the heart and vascular system healthy.
Aluminium and other metals − Trace levels of many metals are present in the brain. Aluminium is the metal that has been most often studied in this context, and that has received the most publicity. Aluminium is extremely common within the environment, and exists in many different chemical forms, so exposure is very difficult to measure. However, the majority of scientists do not believe that there is a causal link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease. Other metals, such as copper and zinc, may be important in the way that key proteins are processed in the brain.
While the source of aluminium toxicity in the body has not yet been proven, aluminium can enter the body through inhalation (by factory workers in certain industries) and by oral ingestion. It has been suggested that aluminium ions may leach into the body from aluminium cooking utensils, cans, and foil, as well as underarm deodorants, antacid pills, and other common products, many of which contain traces of aluminium. In addition, Aluminium is commonly used by water treatment plants to brighten drinking water. This causes the excess aluminium in the water to flow from the treatment plants to the communities downstream of these plants, causing the populations there to receive a double dose of aluminium.
Mercury Post mortem examination of brain tissue from Alzheimer’s victims has also indicated the presence of high levels of mercury. Reactions to high levels of mercury in the body can range from nervousness and depression to suicidal tendencies and severe neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease (a syndrome marked by muscular weakness and atrophy due to degeneration of motor neurons), and Alzheimer’s. Mercury metal fillings also create low levels of constant electrical activity that is conducted directly to the brain, creating aberrant behavior. While the electrical charge created by metals in the mouth does not itself directly suppress the immune system, it enables metals to leave the fillings faster and to be absorbed into the blood.
Environmental Influences: Toxins such as chemicals in food and tap water, carbon monoxide, solvents, aerosol sprays, and industrial chemicals can cause symptoms of brain dysfunction that may lead to an inaccurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or senile dementia.
Hormone Imbalances: The hormone melatonin plays a role in the synchronization of brain cells and, as a potent antioxidant, helps protect brain tissue from free-radical damage. Daily concentrations of melatonin appear to decline in those who have Alzheimer’s disease.
Stress and the stress hormones, particularly cortisol, play a major role in Alzheimer’s. Although some cortisol is needed for proper brain function, chronic exposure to toxic levels of cortisol can kills brain cells. Cortisol damages the nerve cells of the hippocampus and blocks their ability to absorb blood sugar (glucose), causing sluggish responses. Brain scans of Alzheimer’s patients show that the temporal (site of the hippocampus) and frontal lobes have a decreased capacity to absorb glucose.
Caution: Studies conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and Yale University found, after conducting autopsies of Alzheimer patients, that between seven and eleven per cent of all cases were due to Mad Cow Disease.
Impaired Blood Flow to the Brain: There may be a relationship between heart disease, reduced blood flow to the brain, and the onset of Alzheimer’s. According to Dr. Khalsa, a medical doctor from Tucson, Arizona, 77% of Alzheimer’s patients have cardiovascular disease. More than 85% of people 65 and older who suffer from coronary artery disease also exhibited brain tissue plaques similar to Alzheimer’s.
Nutritional Deficiencies: Reduced levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids have been tentatively linked with Alzheimer’s, including folic acid, niacin (vitamin B3), thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and tryptophan.
The brain functions through the transmission of chemical messenger molecules (neurotransmitters). These neurotransmitters can have far-reaching effects in distant areas of the body. Effective transmission of impulses is dependent upon proper pH (acid-alkaline balance) and the presence of a variety of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids), hormones, and neurotransmitters. If any nutrients are lacking or present in imbalanced proportions, brain function will be adversely affected and a person will display various symptoms commonly associated with dementia.
Dementia is caused by changes in the brain. Damage to the brain cells that gets worse over time causes the symptoms of dementia. This leads to a decline in a person’s mental and, sometimes, physical abilities.
In most cases, dementia is not inherited directly from family members. However, a small number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia run in families.
Dementia is often caused by diseases that damage the brain. These are known as neurodegenerative diseases. The gradual changes and damage to brain cells are caused by a build-up of proteins in the brain. These proteins are different in each type of dementia. Vascular dementia is caused when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted. If the blood supply is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die, resulting in brain damage.
The causes of the different types of dementia are listed below.
Causes of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. In most cases of Alzheimer’s disease the brain shrinks, which damages the brain’s structure and how it works. The medical name for this is atrophy.
An area of the brain known as the cerebral cortex is particularly affected by atrophy. The cerebral cortex is the layer of grey matter covering the brain. Grey matter is responsible for processing thoughts.
Clumps of protein, known as ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’, also start to form in the brain. The plaques and tangles start to destroy more brain cells, which makes the condition worse. They also affect the chemicals that carry messages from one brain cell to another. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters.
Causes of vascular dementia
Vascular dementia is caused when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted.
Like all organs, the brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients provided by the blood to work properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, the brain cells will begin to die, resulting in brain damage.
If the blood vessels inside the brain narrow and harden the brain’s blood supply can gradually become interrupted. The blood vessels usually narrow and become hard when fatty deposits build up on the blood vessel walls, restricting the flow of blood. This is called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis in the smaller blood vessels in the brain will also cause them to clog up gradually, depriving the brain of blood. This is known as small vessel disease.
If the brain’s blood supply is interrupted rapidly during a stroke, this can also damage the brain cells.
Not everyone who has had a stroke will go on to develop vascular dementia. However, if you have had a stroke, or you have been diagnosed with small vessel disease, you may have an increased risk of developing vascular dementia.
Causes of dementia with Lewy bodies
Lewy bodies are small, circular lumps of protein that develop inside the brain. It is not known what causes them. It is also unclear how they damage the brain and cause dementia.
One theory is that Lewy bodies interfere with the effects of two of the messenger chemicals in the brain – dopamine and acetylcholine. These messenger chemicals, which send information from one brain cell to another, are called neurotransmitters.
Dopamine and acetylcholine are thought to play an important role in regulating brain functions, such as memory, learning, mood and attention.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is closely related to Parkinson’s disease. This is a condition in which part of the brain becomes more and more damaged over a number of years, leading to physical symptoms, such as involuntary shaking (tremor), muscle stiffness and slowness of movement. A person with dementia with Lewy bodies may also develop these symptoms.
Causes of frontotemporal dementia
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by damage and then shrinking in two areas of the brain. The areas of the brain affected are called the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe. This type of dementia usually affects younger people who are under 65 years of age.
In an estimated 20% of cases, people who develop frontotemporal dementia have inherited a genetic mutation (an altered gene) from their parents.
Motor neurone disease is also sometimes associated with frontotemporal dementia. It is a rare condition that progressively damages the nervous system, causing the muscles to waste away.
Less common causes of dementia
Dementia or dementia-like symptoms can have a number of less common causes. These include:
infections of the brain, such as brain inflammation (encephalitis)
Huntington’s disease – a rare genetic condition that causes progressive brain damage
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) – a rare and fatal condition that causes damage to the brain and nervous system
a lack of vitamin B in the diet
having a brain tumour
rarer degenerative conditions, such as progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration
long-term alcohol misuse
Improving the diet can help dementia patients and promote brain longevity. In general, maintain a diet that features a balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates (not the simple sugars of the typical fast food diet), and healthy fats. The optimal brain diet reduces the intake of: processed food (monosodium glutamate or MSG and aspartame are two food additives that are proven neurotoxins), genetically engineered or refined substances (sugars and flour), while favoring plenty of organic fruits, vegetables and purified water. Alcohol and nicotine are also not recommended, since these substances measurably decrease brainpower.
The amount of protein in the diet is important, since various brain chemical messengers, such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, are manufactured from amino acids and other substances found in the diet.
A whole foods diet provides healthy amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients essential for optimal brain function. It helps to balance pH (an acidic environment inhibits neuron function), normalize blood sugar levels, and prevent insulin resistance. This is important since hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) triggers the body’s stress response, causing the brain to be exposed to higher levels of a cortisol.
Fresh fruit and vegetables contain many vitamins and antioxidants, which may prevent heart disease and protect the brain. A number of research studies have shown that the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in oily fish might also help to protect the heart and blood vessels and lower the risk of developing dementia.
Some research has suggested that caffeine, and various spices and herbs including curcumin, sage and lemon balm, might have a protective effect on the brain.
A Mediterranean style diet may help reduce risk and is relatively easy to follow. This will help to manage your cholesterol and blood pressure. Drink alcohol, especially red wine, in moderation, if you wish.
It is important to not add further toxicity to your system so try to adhere to the following:
- Do not consume any artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, NutraSweet or Aspartame
- Do not consume high fructose corn syrup or mono-sodium glutamate
- Do not drink any carbonated beverages
- Avoid all fast food restaurants
- Avoid all canned food
- Eliminate conventional dairy products. The best dairy products are raw, unpasteurised and homogenized dairy from grass fed cows. If this is unavailable, then buy organic dairy
- Avoid conventional beef. The best beef is organic grass fed beef. www.grasslandbeef.com/StoreFront.bok?affld=104400 The second best is organic meat; this includes beef, veal, lamb, chicken and turkey
- Take Vitamin D3 50,000-100,000 International Units a day nc.vitaminstrength.com for periods of 4 weeks at a time
- Wholefood supplements are the best way of ensuring your nutritional needs are met. The best we know on the market is Kevin Trudeau’s “KT Daily” product. You can find more details here kevintrudeaudailylifesessentials.com/
- Take an Omega 3 supplement:
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC): This amino acid (protein building block) enhances brain energy, helping to improve mood and reduce the effects of age-associated memory impairment. Typical dose: two divided doses of 1,000-2,000 mg each day.
B-Complex Vitamins: The B-complex vitamins are important for healthy nerve function. Women using oral contraceptives increase their utilization of the B vitamins and need to supplement their diet with B complex, as should individuals under high stress. Since the B vitamins are water-soluble, they are not stored in the body. These vitamins must be taken when you have food in the stomach; if taken on an empty stomach, pain and nausea may result.
Vitamin C: Concentrations are 15 times higher in the brain than in any other body tissue, which means this nutrient is vital for brainpower. Vitamin C extends the life of vitamin E and is needed for the production of several key brain chemicals, including acetylcholine and dopamine. It is important to take vitamin C in staggered doses throughout the day, as the body can fully absorb only 500 mg at a time. Typical dose: 1,000-5,000 mg daily or up to bowel tolerance (just short of producing diarreah).
Coenzyme Q10: CoQ10 is necessary for the generation of energy in all cells and has been found to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in some patients. CoQ10 improves cardiovascular fitness and blood circulation to the brain. As a potent antioxidant, it helps to keep the nerve cells free of brainpower-damaging substances. Typical dose: 100 mg daily.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): DHA is a long-chain fatty acid found in fish, egg yolks, and marine algae, and is the predominant omega-3 fatty acid in brain tissue. As the brain is dependent on dietary fatty acids, reductions in DHA content of the diet may contribute to degenerative changes in the nervous system. Dietary sources include fish (tuna, salmon, sardines), red meats, organ meats, and eggs. Typical dose: 500-1,500 mg daily.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble antioxidant that promotes stable cell membranes and reduces damage to the mitochondria, the cell’s energy producer. Vitamin E traps free radicals, interrupting the chain reaction that damages brain cells. Typical dose: 400-800 IU daily.
Phosphatidyl Choline: Phosphatidyl choline is the major structural and functional component of brain-cell membranes. Without this chemical, brain cells undergo degenerative changes. The brain requires choline to produce acetylcholine, a chemical that plays a vital role in memory. Phosphatidyl choline is derived from choline and lecithin; natural sources include eggs, soybeans, cabbage, cauliflower, organ meats, spinach, nuts, and wheat germ. Typical dose: one tablespoon of lecithin provides 250 mg of choline or supplement with 1,200 mg of phosphatidyl choline, 2-3 times daily.
Phosphatidyl Serine (PS): Phosphatidyl serine is a large fat molecule found in trace amounts in lecithin and derived from soybeans. Although the brain normally produces PS, if the diet is deficient in essential fatty acids, folic acid, or vitamin B12, PS production may be blocked. PS plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of brain-cell membranes. Perhaps most significant is its ability to lower the level of stress hormones such as cortisol, which damage brain cells and lead to the accumulation of calcified plaques in the brain. Typical dose: 100 mg three times daily.
Prescription and non-prescription medication:
What non-prescription and prescription drugs are you taking? Your non-prescription and prescription drugs are partially the reason that you have this illness or disease – you need to get off these medications but do so only under the guidance of a licensed health care practitioner.
We know that when the body is out of balance, energy doesn’t flow, leading blockages and eventually disease. Here are some things you can do to combat stress and restore balance:
- Go to a Dr Morter BEST (Bio-Energetic Synchronisation Technique) Practitioner
- Sign up for Energetic Re-Balancing: 2 practitioners to consider are:
- Stephen Lewis, founder of the Aim Program. Find out more by clicking here.
- . Find out more by clicking here
- Consider using Mary Millers Iching System Products – http://ichingsystemsinstruments.com
- Reiki healing is very powerful in releasing stress and emotional baggage. Find a practitioner here
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has had remarkable results in dissolving stress. Find a local practitioner here or go to www.thetappingsolution.com or www.tftrx.com
- Try Hypnotherapy to relax the mind. Find a practitioner here
Traditional Chinese Medicine – Ancient Healing: www.naturalcures.com/healthblog/traditional_chinese_ancient_healing.php
The best way to cleansing and purification of the body: www.naturalcures.com/healthblog/54_the_best_way_to_cleansing_and_purification_of_the_body_110512.php
Mother Nature’s Natural Germ Fighters: naturalhealthdossier.com/2012/03/mother-natures-natural-germ-fighters/
Immune health: NC_Newsletter_07-11.pdf
Squeaky Clean (Colonic Irrigation): www.naturalcures.com/healthblog/squeaky_clean.php
Heal Your Body and Raise Your Consciousness – Qigong: NC_Newsletter_12-08.pdf
Health Care that Won’t Cost You a Single Penny – EFT: NC_Newsletter_12-06.pdf
Become Master of Your Mind – taking charge of your reaction to stress: NC_Newsletter_12-10.pdf
Jump for Joy – Rebounding is a great stress busting workout: NC_Newsletter_12-10.pdf
Hypnotherapy for stress management – why it is so effective: www.naturalcures.com/healthblog/hypnotherapy_for_stress.php
EFT for treating disease: www.garythink.com/eft/physicial.html
Kundalini yoga and Dementia/Alzheimer’s: www.kundalini-yoga-info.com/alzheimers-and-kundalini-yoga.html
Natural cure for Dementia and Alzheimer’s: video.foxnews.com/v/4337733/natural-cure-for-alzheimers-disease/
Ayurvedic home remedy for Dementia and Alzheimer’s: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sayjxtR4gDw
Natural treatments for Dementia and Alzheimer’s: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGwgR6AtK1M
Huperzine A and dementia: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684515/
Fish oils for brain health: www.naturalnews.com/016353_omega-3_fatty_acids_mental_health.html
The power of beetroot/beets: www.naturalcures.com/healthblog/get_with_the_beet_and_get_brainy.php
Further Information (links and books)
The Brain Wash: A Powerful, All-Natural Program to Protect Your Brain Against Alzheimer’s, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Parkinson’s, and Other Diseases – Michelle Schoffro Cook; Stop Alzheimer’s Now!: How to Prevent & Reverse Dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis & Other Neurodegenerative Disorders – Russell L. Blaylock; Anti-Aging – Natural Ways to a Better You – Lambert Klein; The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life – Gary Small
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food … A-To-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies) by Phyllis Balch
Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art by Kathi Keville and Mindi Green
Detox and revitalize by Susana L. Belen
The Secret Language of Your Body by Inna Segal
The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature’s Medicines by Michael Castleman and Prevention Magazine
Andrea Butje | Aromahead email@example.com – aromatherapy
Carrie Vitt firstname.lastname@example.org – organic food recipes
David Spector-NSR/USA email@example.com – meditation, stress
Judith Hoad firstname.lastname@example.org – herbalist
Kath May email@example.com – reiki, tai chi
Lillian Bridges firstname.lastname@example.org – Chinese medicine, living naturally
Monika email@example.com – aromatherapy
Rakesh GAC@AyurvedicLifeStyles.com – Ayurvedic Practitioner