Dementia Is Not a Natural Part of the Aging Process

By Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Underlying Causes Are Primarily Related To Nutritional Choices.

Dementia is a loss of brain function that is most common in the elderly. As brain function declines, the ability to carry out everyday activities such as driving, household chores, and even personal care (such as bathing, dressing, and feeding) is impaired. Dementia used to be called senility and was considered a normal part of aging. We now know that it is not a normal part of aging, but is caused by a number of underlying health issues that result primarily from nutritional choices made earlier in life.

Dementia is not a single disease. Instead, dementia refers to a group of illnesses that involve memory, behavior, learning, judgment, and communication problems. The problems are progressive (which means they slowly get worse) and may eventually result in confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, and impaired recognition of familiar objects or persons. The two major causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia (loss of brain function due to a series of small strokes).The two conditions often occur together.

About five million people in the United States have some degree of dementia. Dementia affects as many as 50 percent of people older than 85 years and is the leading reason for placing elderly people in institutions such as nursing homes. Dementia is a very serious condition that results in significant financial and human costs. Many people with dementia eventually become totally dependent on others for their care.

No one wants to become demented and experience a dismal quality of life in their later years. That is one of the most important reasons to adopt the high-nutrient diet that I recommend. Nutritional excellence will enable most people to age slower and live well into their nineties, without dementia. People generally are aware that dietary folly is the cause of heart disease and strokes, but few realize that the same dietary folly may lead to dementia as they get older.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that causes memory loss, dementia, personality changes, and ultimately death. The mean survival after onset of symptoms is nine years. But those years are low in quality of life. As the disease progresses, increasing numbers of brain cells deteriorate and die. A healthy adult brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) with long branching extensions connected at 100 trillion points. In the brain with advanced Alzheimer’s, there is dramatic shrinkage from cell loss and widespread debris from dead and dying nerve cells. As brain cells age and die, they lose the ability to dispose of a tiny protein fragment called beta-amyloid which builds up in the brain. Beta-amyloid fragments gradually clump together to form microscopic plaques that are indicative of Alzheimer’s.

Common Symptoms

People with Alzheimer’s disease are affected in a variety of ways, but the most common early symptom is a gradually increasing difficulty in remembering new information. This comes about because the disruption of brain cells usually begins in the regions of the brain involved in forming new memories. As damage spreads, individuals also experience confusion, impaired judgment, trouble expressing themselves, and disorientation. In advanced stages, patients need help bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, eating, and other day-to-day activities. In the final stages, they lose the ability to communicate, fail to recognize loved ones, and become bedridden. Alzheimer’s disease is ultimately fatal.

Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia and the fifth leading cause of death in people age 65 and older. About half of the elderly suffer with this disease today, and the actual number of people affected only can be expected to soar in the future. The population is aging. There are an estimated 78.2 million American baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). In 2011, the baby boomers begin turning 65. By 2050, the number of individuals aged 65 and over with Alzheimer’s could range from 11 million to 16 million.1


1. Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures 2007; Alzheimer’s Association; Washington D.C.;

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