Most people who live long enough stand a good chance of developing Alzheimer's, or so it seems. You might start losing your memory, forgetting where you left things, or perhaps can't recall faces and names quite so readily.
The statistics back up the observation. Alzheimer's apparently affects over 50 per cent of the elderly, and these figures are markedly higher among the over-80s.
No one can deny that the sufferer has some kind of memory loss, but how can we be sure it's Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's was a condition unheard of until 1907 when Alois Alzheimer discovered it during a post-mortem examination. He found abnormal formations of plaque on nerve endings in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that affects memory and intellectual function.
This was a condition quite different from standard senile dementia, sufferers of which displayed none of the plaque buildup of an Alzheimer's victim.
So Alzheimer's is a highly specific brain condition, and it's untreatable. There's a range of powerful drugs that can slow its progress, but their side-effects can be horrible. Indeed, they can mimic every reaction of an Alzheimer's victim, such as restlessness, shaking and the like.
However, some specialists are beginning to realize that Alzheimer's is being overdiagnosed by at least 40 per cent. It's a convenient catch-all definition, much like ADHD in difficult children, and one that the victim, and his or her relatives almost expect to hear. But if it isn't Alzheimer's, it's probably senile dementia, which is highly treatable, and reversible. Alzheimer's drugs become an essential part of a self-fulfilling prophecy the moment the 'A' word is uttered. It is the reaction to the drugs, and not the disease itself, that family and friends observe.
Senile dementia is, in the main, an environmental disease that, in up to 20 per cent of cases, can be treated with good nutrition, provided the sufferer can absorb the nutrients properly.
For a full report on dementia and Alzheimer's, see the August issue of Proof! To order your copy, visit: http://www.wddty.co.uk