Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases, and is characterized by behavioral changes as well as impairments in learning and memory. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, beginning with mild symptoms but developing until it is severe enough to interfere with daily-to-day activities. It is this interference in daily life that sets Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia apart from normal age-related cognitive issues.
The symptoms of Alzheimer's vary from person to person and over time as the disease progresses. The portion of the brain that controls learning is affected first, so early symptoms typically revolve around an inability to recall recently-learned information. Memory and cognitive problems worsen over time, and behavioral abnormalities also develop. At its most severe, Alzheimer's patients require help to perform even the most basic daily tasks, and find it very difficult to communicate with their caregivers.
Alzheimer's is largely age-related - most people affected by the disease are 65 or older, and the risk of developing Alzheimer's increases with increasing age. There are early-onset forms of the disease as well, though these are relatively rare. Alzheimer's is a complicated disease with multiple factors contributing to its symptoms and progression, including inflammation, oxidative stress, decreased levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and the buildup of proteins (beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles) in the brain that interfere with the function and communication of neurons (nerve cells). High concentrations of these damaging proteins are toxic and can lead to cell death. It is this damage, loss of cells, and interference in cell communication that leads to the memory and behavioral issues associated with the disease.
Alzheimer's has no known cures, though there are a variety of treatments available that can help mitigate symptoms and slow the disease's progression, and new treatments are being developed and tested all the time. Many of the Alzheimer's drugs in use today have negative side-effects, which has led to increased interest in natural and alternative remedies, many of which are presented in this book.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer's can be difficult and stressful, especially since Alzheimer's patients themselves often don't realize that they have a problem and can be reluctant to accept help. It is our hope that this list will increase awareness of the treatments available and, by connecting people with the treatments that are right for them, improve the quality of life for patients and their caregivers.