The Alzheimer’s Association has defined the 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s.
Experts have developed “stages” to describe how a person’s abilities change from normal function through advanced Alzheimer’s.
My Mom is 84 years old and in Stage 7 of this hateful disease. She can’t smile anymore. Mom doesn’t speak either. She is unable to use the toilet, unable to dress herself, and unable to wash herself. A team of professionals take care of her every need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Though she weighs little more than 120 pounds, the nurses use a machine to transfer Mom from her bed to her wheelchair. As the disease progresses, her body becomes more stiff, more rigid and more fragile. A “lift” is the safest way to move Mom in order to prevent injury.
I’ve watched this vivacious, charismatic “force of nature” slowly recede into herself, leaving little for the world to recognize. Having had such an intimate look at the devastation this disease brings, I’ve had to wonder if this is my future. Am I headed down the same vacuous path?
Will there come a day when I don’t recognize my husband or my own children, and I’m unable to care for myself at even the most basic level? Will my physical maintenance be all that’s left of me? How do I prevent this? What are my options? Is there any way out of such a slow and painful demise? Should I be tested to see if I have the gene, which preconditions me for Alzheimer’s?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight Americans aged 65 or older (13%) have Alzheimer’s Disease. They estimate that 5.2 million Americans 65 and older currently have the disease. Of that number, 3.4 million are women and 1.8 million are men.
Unfortunately, my parents and mother-in-law are among those statistics.
At this point, there is no known cause for Alzheimer’s Disease and no known cure. Some of the identified risk factors are:
- Advancing Age
- Family History
- Genetic Factors
- Mild Cognitive Impairment
- Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Physical Inactivity
- Head Trauma
The FDA has approved several drugs that slow the progress of the disease in some, but not all, patients. Researchers are working around the clock to find more effective treatments. While this is an incredibly complex subject, it appears that the disease can be treated more effectively the earlier it is diagnosed and the earlier treatment begins.
For those who already have it, the current prognosis is not good. I feel for those who suffer from the disease and for their families and caregivers.
How do I avoid Alzheimer’s Disease?
It is difficult, if not impossible, to find definitive prevention guidelines from any reputable source. From reading the thousands of pages available on the subject, we have come up with a few thoughts. Our thoughts should not take the place of advice from a medical professional, so please see your doctor to come up with a prevention program that is appropriate for you and for your individual risk factors.
Having said that, you can discuss the following actions with your doctor:
- Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
- Maintain Health Cholesterol Levels
- Participate in Physical Activities
- Stay Mentally Active and Socially Involved
- Eat a Healthy Diet
- Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in cold water fish
- Include Antioxidants found in darkly colored vegetables
- Get Regular Medical Checkups
- Get Regular Rest
Are there medications I can take to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease?
Currently, there is no magic pill that will lessen your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Conferring with your doctor on a regular basis will allow him or her to help you both manage your overall health. It is vitally important to stay active and involved in the management of your health. There seems to be some overlap between the risk factors for heart disease and for Alzheimer’s Disease. Some of the medications which are used to address heart disease may be beneficial in addressing some of the risks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Are there vitamins I can take to help?
Vitamins and nutritional supplements can be an effective way to help you maintain your overall health. They are not a substitute for eating right and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Over the past several years, more doctors have come around to the idea of using vitamins and nutritional supplements as a tool in maintaining overall health. If you are looking for products to help you maintain a healthy brain, you might want to consider the following in a discussion with your doctor:
- Antioxidants – Vitamins A, C & E
- B Vitamins
- Omega-3 supplements
- Salmon Oil
- Fish Oil
Some doctors have also included the following supplements in a discussion of potentially beneficial products:
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
We can help direct you to additional resources if you have specific questions about the disease.
We can also help put together a customized vitamin and supplement program designed specifically for you to help maintain your health. Please call us at (760) 268-1001 and ask for Jeanne or Randy.