A look at Alzheimer disease

Alzheimer’s diseaseZoomZoom
© Joanna Prime

Article published in the Courrier Laval on July 2, 2006.

Currently, 1 Canadian in 13 suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and its associated conditions. This number is much greater than in the last century and an increase in cases is also predicted for the years to come. There is no cure for this disease but individually, each of us has the possibility of delaying its appearance.

Alzheimer’s disease generally appears after age 60. A loss of specific brain cells and the creation of senile plaques are observed in the area of the brain that controls memory. Although all the cells of our body die, the problem with nerve cells is that they cannot be replaced. According to Charles Ramassamy, professor at the INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier "A normal individual loses 6% of his nerve cells every 10 years but in these individuals, the loss is more important. There is a progressive loss throughout life but when the loss reaches 70, 80%, symptoms develop" (forgetting recent events, then loss of a certain form of reality and finally non recognition of loved ones).

Since its discovery nearly 100 years ago, research has provided few scientific advances into Alzheimer’s disease. It was only in the 1980s that a gene involved in the disease was discovered. Several genes have since been described. Other leads have resulted in the development of treatment of the symptoms. This is good but it is not sufficient; a cure would be even better. In 1999, researchers were proposing a vaccine against this disease. Clinical studies quickly followed but the miraculous treatment had side effects. Patients died from brain inflammation.

It is best to act through prevention. Other factors such as industrial and environmental pollution, malnutrition, and cholesterol increase the risk of developing this disease. "In collaboration with researchers from the Institut des Nutraceutiques et des Aliments Fonctionnels of Université Laval, we are working on the preventive aspects of nutrition through the effects of antioxidants contained in fruits and vegetables". Blueberries, cranberries, green tea, garlic, strawberries, particularly those from Ile d’Orléans that contain 10 times more antioxidants, delay the death of nerve cells and consequently the appearance of symptoms associated with this disease.

Science may be powerless against this disease but we can do something by modifying our daily lives. Physical activity, mental activity, and nutrition are some of the factors that we can act upon.