It is not uncommon for people to lose some of their mental ability as they age. But when loss of memory or mental ability becomes severe enough to interfere with daily life, it is known as dementia, and a major cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. While simple forgetfulness or other signs of mentally slowing down can be normal, it is important to know that Alzheimer’s disease affects a large number of people and to be aware of signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease so that steps can be taken to try and lessen its serious effects.
Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 36 million people worldwide, about equivalent to the entire population of Canada. Of people 65 years of age and older in Western Europe and North America, between one in ten and one in twenty have Alzheimer’s disease.1,2 This disease is caused by the buildup of plaques in the brain, which damages and kills brain cells, resulting in corresponding memory loss and reduced mental ability.* While research is being done, today there is still no cure for this disease. And while medication and lifestyle and dietary management can slow its progression, Alzheimer’s disease is still the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
While the direct cause of symptoms is known, the reasons why people develop Alzheimer’s disease in the first place are less clear. It is likely that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are responsible. Therefore, many doctors and patients are hopeful that changes in lifestyle and diet can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Many seniors, however, tend to have less nutritious diets as they age. Therefore, it is important to know that in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, early diagnosis and nutritious dietary habits are two factors that have been shown to improve the disease course.3,4,5 The role of nutrition in brain health is one of our primary areas of focus at Nestlé Health Science, with the goal of helping patients better manage their condition.
1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ana.410300310/abstract. Accessed December 2014.
2. http://www.alz.org/downloads/Facts_Figures_2014.pdf. Accessed December 2014.
3. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp. Accessed December 2014.
4. http://journal.frontiersin.org/journal/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00282/full. Accessed December 2014.
5. http://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics/. Accessed December 2014.
*Listed symptoms are not all-inclusive; actual patient symptoms may vary.