Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease responsible for most cases of loss of memory and cognitive decline in humans. It’s the most common cause of dementia. The term “Dementia” is an overall term describing a wide set of symptoms. The symptoms could be associated with a decline in memory, mood changes, and problems associated with communication and reasoning.
According to Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s disease accounts for between 60 -80% of all dementia cases.
However, this report outlines the symptoms and risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as an ayurvedic approach to Alzheimer’s disease.
The term “Alzheimer’s disease”, was first described by a German neurologist, named Alois Alzheimer. It’s a neurological disorder that affects the brain such that, the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. During the course of the disease, protein ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ develop in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells. People with Alzheimer’s disease have a shortage of some important chemicals in their brain. These chemicals are involved in the transmission of messages within the brain.
An Alzheimer’s disease is a physical disease that progressively affects the brain. It’s a progressive disease in the sense that, it gradually affects and damages more part of the brain, over time. Thus as this happens, the symptoms become more severe.
Recent research has shown that over 4.7 million people of 65 years of age and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, and also it affects around 496,000 people in the UK.
However, a recent statistical report established from the Alzheimer’s Association, gives a proportion of the population affected – just over a tenth of people in the over-65 age group have the disease in the US. In the over-85s, the proportion goes up to about a third.
What causes AD:
Although, it’s widely known and accepted that Alzheimer’s is a brain disease, in which the death of the brain cells causes memory loss. What in turn causes this disease is still a force to reckon with, as so many factors such as age, genetic inheritance, environmental factors, lifestyle and overall general health, has been suggested by some scientists and health care organisations.
In Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of certain proteins “plaques and tangles” inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other. The brain region called the hippocampus is the centre of learning and memory in the brain, and the brain cells in this region are often the first to be damaged.
The Plaques are found among the dying cells in the brain – from the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid, while the tangles are within the brain neurones – from a disintegration of another protein, called tau.
- Age is one of the biggest risk factor this disease. In as much as dementia is not restricted to older people, the risk factor gets higher with increasing age. Thus a bigger proportion of over-85-year-olds has it than of over-65s.
- Inheritance of genes – If a case of Alzheimer’s disease exists in a family, thus, the risk would be a little higher than if there were no cases of Alzheimer’s in an immediate family.
- Research has also shown that people who smoke, and those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or diabetes, are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s
- People who have had a severe head or whiplash injuries also appear to be at increased risk of developing dementia. Boxers who receive continual blows to the head are at risk too.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Alzheimer’s disease:
According to Ayurveda, Alzheimer’s disease is termed “smruthi nasha”. As Alzheimer’s disease is a problem of old age where “Vata Dosha” is much aggravated. The Vata passes from the Majja Dhatu to the Mano Vaha Srotas, thereby causing disorders such as paranoia, memory loss and delusions. In Ayurveda, Alzheimer’s can result from three main factors. The factors include;
- dosha imbalance
- Imbalance of the mind
The mind is described to be in one of the following 3 states:
- rajas; or
A sattvic mind has the best memory and is alert, enthusiastic, courageous, stable, and intelligent. On the other hand, Rajas describes a mental state dominated by attachments and is characterised by anger, passion, greediness, constant action, excessive work, and anxiety.
The tamasic mind tends to develop delusions and is described as dull, ignorant, and slow.
Tamasic characteristics of Alzheimer’s include;
- slow cognition,
- poor memory; and
- difficulty performing tasks.
Rajasic imbalances present during frustrated outbursts and periods of agitation often termed sundowning
Related symptoms of Alzheimer’s:
- Problems with language
- Memory loss
- Loss of initiative
- Problems with abstract thinking
- Misplacing things
- Changes in personality
- Changes in mood or behaviour
Line of treatment:
Ayurvedic Treatment for Alzheimer’s disease:
- Complete Nourishment: The two variants of treatment in Ayurveda are; Apatarpana( aimed to reduce), and Santarpana( to nourish). The Santarpana treatment is being done in Alzheimer’s by using appropriate herbs.
- Removal of Causes: such as dryness, roughness, instability and high mobility in body or mind are the main causes for Vata aggravation.
- Healthy Diet and Lifestyle: What we eat thus reflects directly on our body. thus the need to properly manage diet and lifestyle is important.
- Panchakarma; A special part of treatment in Ayurveda aimed at removing toxins from the body and servicing it for a better efficacy. Vamana, Virechana, Basti, Nasya is advised
- Ayurveda therapies such as Rasayana therapies, Shiro Basti, Shiro Dhara, Shiro Pichu, Abhyanga are commonly prescribed for Alzheimer’s patients.
- Include medicines to prevent degeneration and strengthening of the brain. Such treatments for Alzheimer’s comprises the use of herbs, which acts upon the major dhatu and mano vaha srotas. Herbs such as brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Vacha (Acorus calamus), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), etc.
- Specific Yoga Asanas, Pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation
- Food and lifestyle changes: Foods that promote rajas and tamas mind states should be avoided. Foods that cause a dull state of mind have low amounts of prana (life energy) inside. These include overripe, overcooked, highly processed, frozen, and refined foods. Also, it’s good to have it in mind that a living a healthy lifestyle is worth emulating.
- Ayurvedic approach AD gives the best results.