The incidence of AD is lower in countries whose citizens have a diet that is lower in fats and calories. There have been a few reports that a diet rich with fish improves mental function in patients with AD or dementia. AD patients treated with essential fatty acids showed greater improvement in mood and mental function than patients on placebo. Because of its disease-preventing properties, red wine in moderation may be beneficial to AD patients.
Studies have shown that AD patients have lower blood levels of vitamin E than age matched control subjects. A large, two year study of moderately affected AD patients found that taking 2,000 IU of vitamin E daily significantly delayed disease progression as compared to patients taking placebo. This delay was equivalent to that seen with patients taking the drug selegiline. Vitamin E is also thought to delay AD onset. High levels of vitamin E put the patient at higher risk for bleeding disorders.
THIAMINE (VITAMIN B1)
Several small studies to determine the effectiveness of thiamine (vitamin B1) on AD have been carried out. Daily doses of 3 g for two to three months have improved mental function and AD assessment scores. Other studies have shown that thiamine had no effect on AD patients. Side effects include nausea and indigestion.
COBALAMIN (VITAMIN B12)
Although results are conflicting, some studies have found that AD patients have lower levels of cobalamin (vitamin B12) than others. Some studies have shown that cobalamin supplementation improves memory and mental function in AD patients whereas other studies have found no effect.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is similar in structure to the neurotransmitter acetyl-choline. Studies have shown that 2 g or 3 g of acetyl-L-carnitine daily slows the progression of AD, especially in patients who developed the disease before age 66. Patients who developed disease after 66 years of age worsened with treatment. Side effects include increased appetite, body odor, and rash.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid hormone. There may be a link between decreasing levels of DHEA in the elderly and development of AD. Studies on the effect, if any, of DHEA on AD are needed. Side effects include acne, hair growth, irritability, insomnia, headache, and menstrual irregularity.
MELATONIN. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate mood and sleep cycles. The effect of melatonin treatment on AD is unknown but it may be beneficial in regulating sleep cycles. The usual dose is 3 mg taken one to two hours before bedtime. Side effects are drowsiness, confusion, headache, decreased sex drive, and decreased body temperature
Herbals and Chinese medicine
Gingko, the extract from the Ginkgo biloba tree is the most commonly used herbal treatment for AD. Several studies have been performed to test the effectiveness of ginkgo for treating AD. The dose range studied were 120–160 mg daily divided into three doses. Although results have been mixed, the evidence suggests that ginkgo is an effective treatment for patients with mild to moderate AD. Side effects are not common but include headache, allergic skin reaction, and gastrointestinal disturbance. Ginkgo also decreases blood coagulation. Individuals with coagulation or platelet disorders should use extreme caution and consult a physician before using ginkgo.
Phytoestrogens may be beneficial in the treatment of AD based on the findings that women with AD who are on hormone replacement therapy have improved mental function and mood. Estrogens may prevent AD, therefore, phytoestrogens may have the same effect. Phytoestrogens are mainly found in soy products
Huperzine A is a compound isolated from clubmoss (Huperzia serrata). Studies have shown that taking 0.1–0.4 mg daily improves mental function in AD patients. Side effects are nausea, muscle cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Music therapy has been shown to be effective in treating the depression, agitation, wandering, feelings of isolation, and memory loss associated with AD. AD patients have benefited from listening to favorite music or participating in musical activity. Participation in a music therapy group was more effective at improving memory and decreasing agitation than being part of a verbal (talking) group.
A wide variety of other therapies have been beneficial in the treatment of the psychologic symptoms of AD. These include:
• Light therapy in the evening to improve sleep cycle disturbances.
• Supportive therapy through touch, compliments, and displays of affection.
• Sensory stimulation through massage and aromatherapy.
• Socio-environmental therapies use activities fitted to previous interests, favorite foods, and pleasant surroundings.
• Cognitive therapy to reduce negative perceptions and learn coping strategies.
• Insight-oriented psychotherapy addresses the patient’s awareness of his or her disease.
• Dance therapy.
• Validation therapy.
• Reminiscence therapy.
• Reality-oriented therapy.
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