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{3} september 6, 2009

The GP & the naturopath TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Your HEALTH

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

WHEN ONE IS AFFECTED BY Alzheimer’s disease neurons in the brain are progressively destroyed and the transmission of signals across the synapses is disrupted. Over time, nerve cell death and tissue loss results in dramatic shrinkage of the brain and loss of brain function, affecting learning and memory, thinking and planning, speech and communication, and eventually involving virtually all areas of brain function. It is normal to suffer occasional lapses of memory, especially with advancing age. However, serious memory loss, confusion and difficulties with thinking that interfere with daily functioning could indicate some form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 70 per THE DOCTOR cent of dementia. While it is more common in older people, even people in their 30s and 40s may have early-stage Dr Cindy Pan Alzheimer’s. While there is no cure, there are treatments that may help slow or delay progression and assist with symptoms. Symptoms may be cognitive (affecting memory, language, judgment and planning) or behavioural and psychiatric (such as emotional distress, uncontrolled outbursts, yelling and paranoia). Depending on the nature and severity of symptoms, a doctor can advise which medicines and supportive measures may help. Early diagnosis and assessment is vital for future planning as well as to maximise opportunities to take advantage of available treatments.

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Dr Cindy Pan has had over 10 years of clinical practice. Her books include Pandora’s Box: Lifting The Lid On Life’s Little Nasties (HarperCollins) and Playing Hard To Get (HarperCollins). She appears on television, lectures and speaks about all aspects of health, relationships and wellbeing.

EVEN THOUGH MANY PEOPLE develop Alzheimer’s disease as they grow older, it is not a normal part of the ageing process. The gradual loss of brain function that characterises Alzheimer’s disease seems to be due to neural damage, in which nerve fibres become tangled and protein deposits known as plaques build up in the affected tissue. The brain is a fatty tissue that absorbs dietary fats in any form, so ensure the diet is free from rancid essential fatty acids and trans fatty acids. When we over-consume unhealthy fats, such as trans fats, commonly found in packaged foods, or rancid fats, such as those in deepfried foods, we are providing our bodies with unhealthy THE NATUROPATH fats. Diets should focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, cold-pressed oils and pure water. Leah Hechtman Avoiding excessive salt, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine is also a good idea. Herbal medicines ginkgo and bacopa have excellent evidence to support their use for this condition and to help improve memory and brain function. The link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease is controversial, but there is evidence that the plaque development is associated with high levels of this toxic mineral, so avoid using cookware or deodorants which contain aluminium.

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Leah Hechtman is a naturopath and fertility specialist. She is a lecturer, author, researcher and industry consultant and has her own clinical practice in Sydney, NSW. She specialises in fertility, reproductive and psychological health. For more information visit www.naturalhealthfertility.com

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Support for Alzheimer's Disease