What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of all people with dementia. Almost 70,000 Kiwis are living with dementia today. Almost 170,000, Kiwis are likely to be living with dementia by 2050.1,2 Alzheimer’s is a physical brain disease characterised by the impairment of brain functions such as impaired memory, language, thinking and behaviour. It is a progressive disease caused by the gradual degeneration of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease can broadly be categorised into two areas:2

  • Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease can affect adults at any age but occurs most often after age 65. This is the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease and affects people who may or may not have a family history of the disease.
  • Familial Alzheimer’s disease is a much less common form in which the disease is passed directly from one generation to another. This can develop at an earlier age, usually in a persons 40’s or 50’s.

Causes of Alzheimer’s disease

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood however research has shed some light on a variety of factors that increase the risk of developing the condition.2
  1. Hereditary – Having a family history (first degree relative) of Alzheimer’s disease means you are more likely to develop the disease compared to those with no history.
  2. Genetics – Certain gene variants have been shown to increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease e.g. APOE-e4.
  3. Age – Advanced age is the largest risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease with the chance of developing the condition doubling every 5 years after the age of 65.
  4. Mild Cognitive Impairment – MCI can be an earlier stage of Alzheimer’s disease and causes changes in the ability to think however unlike mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease, does not affect day to day tasks. Having MCI is linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia. Read more on the differences between MCI and Mild Alzheimer’s disease here. 
  5. Other conditions – Having other conditions like cardiovascular disease or traumatic brain injury may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

What happens to the brain during Alzheimer’s disease?

The brain consists of millions of nerve cells which communicate with each other via connections called synapses. These synapses faciliate the storage of memories, learning of new habits and shaping of personality. In a healthy brain existing synapses are replaced every 3-6 months with new ones, this means the amount of new synapses that are formed matches the amount that are lost.
During Alzheimer’s disease the loss of synapses becomes accelerated. It is not yet understood why this is the case, however research suggests that synaptic loss occurs very early in the disease progression. This loss of synapses is one of the key features of early Alzheimer’s disease. Often the first areas of the brain to be damaged are the hippocampus and its connected structures. The hippocampus is an area of the brain that is responsible for short term memory storage and retrieval, as a result one of the first noticeable symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is a person having difficulty remembering what they did that day or what they have just said. Beyond this, other brain functions and also behaviour can also be impacted and recognizable as initial symptoms.
Souvenaid® is formulated to provide Alzheimer’s patients with a unique blend of nutrients that work together to support the growth of new brain connections. Although, found naturally in food, the amount of these specific nutrients found in Souvenaid® would be difficult to achieve through a normal diet. Souvenaid® includes all these essential nutrients at levels needed to make new synapses.

References

  1. Dementia Australia 2021, ‘Dementia statistics’, viewed 11th November 2021, https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics
  2. Dementia Australia 2021, ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ Alzheimer’s disease | Dementia Australia
  3. Alzheimer’s Association 2020, ‘ Risk factors for Alzheimer’s’, viewed 11th November 2021, https://www.alz.org/au/dementia-alzheimers-australia.asp
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