Treating, preventing Alzheimer’s disease

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Currently, 50 million people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, worldwide.

Unfortunately, we do not know the cause and there is currently no curative treatment for this disease. A recent medical report looks at ways to improve the quality of life of patients with dementia and discusses possible preventive approaches. The article points out that delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease is particularly important, since no cure is available.

There have been many attempts to understand the cause of dementia. It has been known that amyloid plaques are present in the brains of patients with dementia. What are these plaques and is this a cause or not? It is beginning to appear that plaques do not cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists have found that many conditions common in older folks, are more likely to occur in dementia patients. These include diabetes, cigarette smoking, and other factors. Are any of these illnesses or problems the cause of dementia? We may not be able to determine that for many more years. Knowing the risk factors, though, should be a real incentive for making positive changes in our health.

One example of such a risk factor is gingivitis, inflammation of the gums. Many people do not take good care of their teeth and gums, do not see a dentist, do not brush and floss regularly. The result is that the gums become puffy, bleed easily, and a mild infection develops.

After years of gingivitis, teeth may need to be removed or they may fall out. Gingivitis is now being considered as a possible cause of dementia, as the tiny bacteria may begin to grow in the brain. Some facts are known — people with missing teeth are more likely to have Alzheimer’s than those with all their teeth.

So, the question is, should you go to a dentist and get guidance to treat gum disease? In this case the answer is obviously yes. Gum disease should be prevented, to prevent loss of teeth. If it also prevents dementia, that would be good news.

That type of thinking applies to many lifestyle factors. Being healthier may help delay the onset of dementia. All of the following might prevent or delay Alzheimer’s Disease: stop smoking, drink less alcohol, get regular exercise, keep your blood pressure, cholesterol level and blood sugar low, lose weight if you are overweight. 

The other area that is being considered regarding prevention of Alzheimer’s disease is mental and social lifestyle. It appears that people who live alone and have little social interaction are more likely to get early dementia. Also, people who are hard of hearing, perhaps because they also may become socially isolated.

If you or a loved one develops Alzheimer’s disease there are some medications that are helpful, especially at the early stages. Your doctor should be familiar with them and will understand the risks and benefits. If need be, seek out a geriatric specialist who is trained in the care of the elderly.

There are two non-modifiable causes of dementian – having a family history of it and getting older. There is nothing you can do about these factors, except try to improve the modifiable factors listed above. If you are caring for an older person, encourage them to become more active, both physically and socially.

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