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DEMENTIA

SENILE DEMENTIA (Also see Alzheimer’s for more detail)

Dementia is a term that describes the loss of cognitive function, usually because of damaged brain cells.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. It includes memory loss and at least one of the following: difficulty with language, impaired movement, and inability to plan and initiate appropriate behaviors socially or at work. People with dementia may not be able to care for themselves by getting dressed or eating; they may have trouble balancing their checkbook and may get lost in familiar settings.

Nutrients, Herbs, and Alternative Therapies Used to Treat Senile Dementia

Nutrition and Supplements

  • Phosphatidylserine, a substance occurring naturally, may increase levels of brain chemicals that deal with memory, according to several studies. There are great differences in quality among phosphatidylserine supplements.
  • Antioxidants may protect against the development of dementia. They may even slow the progression of dementia. In some studies, but not all, vitamin E combined with Aricept may slow cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Another antioxidant, coenzyme Q10, may also help the brain get more oxygen. The skins of dark berries also provide valuable antioxidants. Many naturally-oriented physicians recommend eating half a cup of frozen blueberries daily — freezing makes the antioxidants in the skin more easily absorbed.
  • B Vitamins: biotin; B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid. No scientific evidence shows a direct benefit, but B12 and folic acid lower the levels of an amino acid in the blood that is often elevated in Alzheimer’s patients. Injections of B12 may have the best results.
  • Zinc is often deficient in elderly people, and may help improve memory.
  • Some evidence suggests that L-arginine, an amino acid, may help in vascular dementia by increasing blood flow to the brain. The dose used was 1.6 g each day for 3 months.
  • Essential fatty acids, such as those found in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), borage oil, and evening primrose oil, may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Dietary changes include eating fewer animal fats and more fish.

Herbs

The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) shows the best evidence for treating early Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. If you are taking blood thinning medication, use ginkgo only under the supervision of your doctor.
  • Huperzine A, a chemical made from the plant Huperzia serrata, may improve memory in both vascular and Alzheimer’s dementia, according to several studies in China. However, more studies are needed to know for sure. The usual dose is 200 mcg twice a day. Do not take huperzine A if you have liver disease or if you are about to have anesthesia.
  • One study showed that lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) helped improve cognitive function in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The dose used was 60 drops per day.
  • Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) leaf extract, called Brahmi, is used in Ayurvedic or Indian medicine to improve brain function and learning. However, no scientific studies have looked at bacopa to see whether it might help lessen symptoms of dementia. One study found that taking 300 mg of bacopa per day for 12 weeks seemed to improve cognition in healthy people.
  • Lavender may be effective in terms of alleviating agitation associated with dementia. Lavender is not used internally but rather as an aromatherapy agent.

Homeopathy

Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider remedies, based on their knowledge and experience, for treating dementia. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type — your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual. Some of the most common remedies used for dementia are listed below.

  • Alumina — for dullness of mind, vagueness, slow answers to questions
  • Argentum nitricum — for dementia with irritability, especially with lack of control over impulses
  • Cicuta — for dementia after head injuries, especially with convulsions
  • Helleborus — for stupefaction, when a person answers questions slowly and stares vacantly

Silica — for mental deterioration with anxiety over small details

Signs and Symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease

  • Increasing memory loss
  • Difficulty with language (not being able to find the right word)
  • Not being able to think abstractly
  • Disorientation (getting lost in familiar places)
  • Not recognizing friends or family
  • Inability to do familiar tasks (such as cooking)
  • Loss of judgment and decision making ability
  • Personality changes

Vascular dementia

  • Mental confusion
  • Having trouble walking; falling frequently
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty with language
  • Becoming agitated

Urinary frequency or incontinence

Causes

Dementia usually occurs in elderly people, although it is not considered a normal effect of aging. Some kinds of vascular dementia may be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease, and the two often occur together.

Other causes of dementia include:

  • Vascular disease (blockage of a blood vessel to the brain)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, and other diseases
  • Brain tumor
  • Vitamin B deficiencies
  • Drug or alcohol abuse, medications, or exposure to toxic substances

A history of severe hypoglycemic episodes among people with type 2 diabetes

Drug Therapies

The following drugs have been approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease. They are also often used to treat vascular dementia. However, not everyone responds to these medications. Research is continuing to find better drugs to treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Cholinesterase inhibitors — These drugs increase the amount of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, a messenger chemical that is involved in memory and judgment. Side effects can include nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea. This class of drugs includes

  • Donepezil (Aricept)
  • Rivastigmine (Excelon)
  • Galantamine (Razadyne)

Memantine (Namenda) — This drug works by regulating a chemical messenger called glutamate, which is involved in information storage and retrieval in the brain. Side effects can include headache, constipation, confusion, and dizziness.

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  2. By Alzheimer’s | Online Wellness Community on November 14, 2010 at 04:19

    [...] in the most common kind of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that results in loss of [...]

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