Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
About 5-million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. And while this disease is generally related to old age, about five percent of those suffering with dementia are in their 40's and 50's. It's what's called younger onset or early onset Alzheimer's.
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer's is difficulty remembering newly learned information. As Alzheimer's advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
If you notice any of these changes, either at home or work, it's time to time do see a doctor. Of course, something else could be causing this, such as medication, which is why it's important to have that medical check.
For years, scientists have been studying Alzheimer’s disease trying to find a cause for the disease. Some recent studies have identified potential causes for Alzheimer’s disease and it has been termed Type 3 Diabetes. They have found an overlap of insulin deficiency and problems with IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1). The results support the hypothesis that abnormalities in insulin and IGF signaling mechanisms begin early in the course of AD and are therefore likely have an important role in its pathogenesis. There are tests underway to test the hypothesis that AD-type neurodegeneration could be reduced or prevented by early treatment with insulin- sensitizer antidiabetes agents such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) agonists.
“At the same time, it is essential to recognize that T2DM and T3DM are not solely the end results of insulin/IGF resistance and/or deficiency, because these syndromes are unequivocally accompanied by significant activation of inflammatory mediators, oxidative stress, DNA damage, and mitochondrial dysfunction, which contribute to the degenerative cascade by exacerbating insulin/ IGF resistance.”(J Diabetes Sci Technol. Nov 2008; 2(6): 1101–1113.)
People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you need assistance finding a doctor with experience evaluating memory problems, your local Alzheimer's Association chapter can help. Early diagnosis and intervention methods are improving dramatically, and treatment options and sources of support can improve quality of life.
Your Naturopathic doctor can help decrease inflammation, free radicals, mitochondrial dysfunction, and insulin resistance that can contribute to the development of the disease later in life. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, working on prevention is especially important. It is also important for brain health to regularly engage in puzzles and quizzes such as cross-word puzzles, memory games, jigsaw puzzles and trivia games. For more information about Alzheimer’s disease you can also visit http://www.alz.org/
Dr. Teresa Richter
Dr. Teresa Richter is a graduate of Bastyr University. She completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine as well as a Bachelor of Science in Herbal Sciences at Bastyr University.