We all know the brain is one of the hardest working, most complex organs in the body. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to learn that illnesses associated with the brain are confusing and difficult to treat.
Many of us fear the day mental decline begins to interfere with our loved one’s daily life. While there isn’t much that can be done to treat the ailments that plague seniors, there are certain preventative measures we can help them take now.
Alzheimer’s Disease: The Condition We All Dread
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have long been feared as mysterious, deadly illnesses. Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia and its effects are widely known. Unfortunately, the stats associated with the illness are not encouraging
- There are nearly 27 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide.
- There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease; the condition will progressively worsen until it leads to death.
- Once believed to be a disease of old age, 5% of patients have early onset Alzheimer’s–which often appears when patients are in their 40s and 50s.
- By 2050, Alzheimer’s is expected to affect 1 in 85 people worldwide.
What To Do When There is No Cure
Many of us feel helpless as we watch our loved one’s memories and sense of self slip away. The reality of Alzheimer’s disease is this: there is no cure. And that pill can be hard to swallow.
Few of us take solace in the fact that Alzheimer’s disease has been dubbed the most baffling condition in the medical community. However, in 2012, more than 1,000 clinical trials were conducted—which begins to give some of us hope.
One of the most promising studies yielded encouraging results. A group of scientists at Oxford University were studying the non-genetic risk factors associated with dementia. This is what they found.
B Vitamins Help Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists have notice a correlation between elevated levels of homocysteine and dementia. The group at Oxford University, headed by Dr. Celeste A. de Jager gathered nearly 300 men and women over the age of 70. All of the trial participants had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.
Mild cognitive impairment was a prerequisite for the study since more than half of these patients progress to Alzheimer’s disease. The trial leaders found elevated levels of homocysteine in all these patients.
Normal homocysteine levels range between 10 and 12μmol/L. Many of the test subjects were found to have homocysteine levels well above 20μmol/L.
It is a well-known fact that folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 help reduce homocysteine levels. At elevated levels, homocysteine can cause stroke, cardiovascular disease and dementia. However, folic acid, B6 and B12 help recycle it into useful amino acids—the foundation of protein. Since the body cannot create these amino acids on its own, these vitamins are especially important.
But in light of this new correlation between high levels and Alzheimer’s disease, the fact become especially helpful.
Dr. de Jager’s team administered extremely high doses of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12
- Vitamin B12 – 0.5mg (more than 200 times higher than the recommended daily intake)
- Vitamin B6 – 20mg (more than 10 times the recommended daily intake)
- Folic acid – 0.8mg (twice the recommended daily intake)
The Study Findings
The neuropsychologists found this powerful nutrient cocktail produced amazing results. It reduce brain shrinkage by up to 90%. In areas where damage commonly leads to Alzheimer’s disease, the shrinkage was diminished seven fold.
What does this mean? Since the elderly are already susceptible to a vitamin B12 deficiency, supplementation is essential. The earlier homocysteine levels are lowered, the less brain shrinkage is to be expected.
Also, “normal” supplementation isn’t enough. Simply meeting the recommended daily intake won’t sufficiently combat elevated levels of homocysteine.
How We Can Help Our Loved Ones
While these findings are encouraging, we shouldn’t get our hopes up too soon. It might sound like it, but popping a few pills isn’t a quick fix.
We must encourage our loved ones to supplement their diet early on. If signs of dementia are already evident, these vitamins won’t be able to reverse the effects of the disease.
They can, however, slow the process. This means enhanced brain functioning for an extended period of time.
We also need to encourage our loved ones to utilize the most effective form of supplementation. Seniors have a hard time absorbing certain nutrients. Their bodies lose the ability to absorb the nutrients through digestion.
Therefore, supplementation with oral pills will do very little good. The body will struggle to absorb the nutrient from a pill just as it does from the diet.
Many doctors agree that vitamin injections are the best way to acquire essential nutrients. This is especially true since such high doses are needed for dementia prevention. Vitamin injections can be administered in various locations and the process is quite easy for self-administration. Plus, vitamin injections are usually only required one or two times a week, rather than one or two times per day.
Talk with your loved one’s doctor about testing vitamin levels. The process is simple and painless. Ask about supplementing with high doses to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If symptoms have already become apparent, see if supplementation can help your favorite senior stay mentally stable for a longer period of time.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are ways to reduce a senior’s suffering. Are the B vitamins right for your loved one?
Lindsey Dahlberg is a health and fitness writer. She often focuses on topics that affect her personally. Since her grandmother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, experimental research has become extremely interesting to her.