Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around six in every 10 people with dementia in the UK. Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear later in life.
Alzheimer’s disease affects people’s ability to think and remember things. This can keep getting worse, leading to changes in people’s personality and behaviour. Over time, they find it harder to do their usual activities and communicate with other people. In the early stage, dementia symptoms may be minimal, but as the disease causes more damage to the brain, symptoms worsen. The rate at which the disease progresses is different for everyone, but on average, people with Alzheimer’s live for eight years after symptoms begin.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing, but the chances of developing the disease do increase the older we get. The majority of people who develop the disease are over the age of 65. Sometimes, Alzheimer’s can affect younger people. It is thought that around 5% of people with Alzheimer’s are under 65, about 42,000 people.
What causes Alzheimer’s ?
The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells that connect to each other. In Alzheimer’s disease, connections between these cells are lost. This is because proteins build up and form abnormal structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. Eventually nerve cells die and brain tissue is lost.
The brain also contains important chemicals that help to send signals between cells. People with Alzheimer’s have less of some of these ‘chemical messengers’ in their brain, so the signals are not passed on as well.
Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that affect the brain over time. Less than 5 percent of the time, Alzheimer’s is caused by specific genetic changes that virtually guarantee a person will develop the disease. This is good news. Because it means that if we can identify the root lifestyle and environmental factors we have a 95% chance of impacting the trajectory of this disease.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s ?
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are generally mild to start with, but as more brain cells are damaged over time the symptoms get worse and start to interfere with a person’s day-to-day life. This makes them different from the changes that lots of people have as they get older, such as being a bit slower at thinking things through or forgetting something occasionally.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, memory problems will usually affect someone’s daily life more and they may:
- lose items (such as keys and glasses) around the house
- forget a friend’s name, or struggle to find the right word in a conversation
- forget about recent conversations or events
- get lost in a familiar place or on a familiar journey
- forget appointments or significant dates.
As well as memory difficulties, people with Alzheimer’s are also likely to have – or go on to develop – other problems. These include problems with thinking, reasoning, language or perception such as:
- speech – they may repeat themselves or struggle to follow a conversation
- seeing things in three dimensions and judging distances (visuospatial skills) – going up or down stairs or parking the car might become much harder
- concentrating, planning or organising – they may struggle with making decisions, solving problems or carrying out a sequence of tasks (such as cooking a meal)
- orientation – they may become confused or lose track of the day or date.
How do we support Alzheimer’s ?
Alzheimer’s is not a single disease with a single cause. It is a disease with many causes and no two people with this diagnosis can be treated in the same way.
As a result, our practitioners use a multi-disciplinary approach tailored towards the individual, combining the Bredesen Protocol and functional medicine.
The Bredesen Protocol is a personalised program designed to improve cognition and reverse the cognitive decline of early Alzheimer’s disease. It was designed by Dr Dale Bredesen, an internationally recognised expert in the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases. Professor Bredesen approach is focused on personalised dietary and lifestyle interventions.
A functional medicine approach aims to address Alzheimer’s at its roots. Rather than solely focusing on the removal of amyloid plaques, our functional medicine practitioners will assess why plaques arise and seek to prevent their growth.
Functional Medicine and Bredesen’s program maintains that many causes exist for any given symptom, and each underlying cause can lead to a number of different symptoms. In the management of these complex underlying causes, there are many focuses of treatment and each patient’s presentation is very individual, based on their underlying causes.
Bredesen refers to “36 holes in a roof”. If each underlying cause represents one hole in the roof, healing will not occur unless every hole is plugged. After plugging away at the holes, there is some synergism. This means plugging 10 holes can give the body enough momentum to start plugging the other holes. In other words, if you give the body enough help, it can start to heal itself.
Who can we work with at the London Clinic of Nutrition ?
We believe that working with clients in early intervention has the greatest benefit. This means that we can only work with those who are healthy at risk individuals, those who have mild memory loss, or those who have been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease only.
Get in touch
If you would like to discuss our approach to alzheimer's and cognitive decline further, please contact the clinic or book an appointment on 020 3332 0030.
Sign up to receive free recipes, health tips and more