Why do we hear about so many Alzheimer's and Dementia cases now?

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When I was younger there were no elders in my family, extended family, or friend's families who had this awful disease. My elder relatives were very much a vital part of our lives and integrated into everything we did. I know it wasn't called Alzheimers back then, but I knew very few people who had diminished mental capacity as they aged. Fast forward to the present and it seems that so many more seniors are afflicted with this illness.
Is the cause environmental, from having less healthy diets and lifestyles than past generations, social deprivation, or from living longer lives. It seems so odd to me that we would have this tremendous leap in cases in such a short period of time.
I also wonder if it is coming from a shift in our thinking about aging. In the past most people did physical labor until the day they died. We did not warehouse older citizens or make them feel like their usefulness was up. My grandfather worked on his farm until his 80s. My grandmother was dancing 2 weeks before she passed.
If it is a societal issue, that troubles me. The last few decades have ushered in a youth-fixated philosophy, so much so, that the media and advertisers try to suggest that people in their 40s+ are "old." We separate generations and grandparents are just for "visiting" on Sundays. Could lack of inter-generational contact be contributing to the cognitive issues we are seeing now? I don't know.
I know very little about this illness, and am hoping others will share their theories. I hope we find a cure...it is such a dignity-robbing disease.

Answers 1 to 10 of 104
You pose some interesting questions, Lilliput. No doubt there are many factors at work here. The one I'm going to focus on is the increase in longevity. I don't think it is the only factor but it is too important to ignore. Why do you think there is so much more trouble during menopause these days? (Bear with me. I will connect this up.) Why are there magazine articles and newspaper articles and research studies and debates about hormones, and other generations just got through it? In 1911 less than one third of all females tived to see the change of life. I don't know exactly what that number is in 2011, but it is a way, way higher percentage of a much larger population. More women are dealing with these issues because more people are living long enough to experience them. Also, the subject is no longer hush-hush. Our society has a different attitude about health subjects than we did a hundred years ago.

Dementia is more common now in part because more people are living to an age where they are suseptible. And it is not a hush-hush topic. My grandmother was pretty sharp into her nineties, but she spent her final years bedridden in a nursing home, not always recognizing her visitors and often off in some world not shared by them. No one ever suggested she had dementia, and she was not counted among dementia statistics at that time. But she no doubt would be now.

I think we cannot minimize the importance of more people of dementia age and better record keeping about health matters. In 1900, about 4% of the population was over 65. In 2000, about 12% of the population was over 65. And the population is much bigger. I don't know if anyone kept track of how many people were "senile" in 1900; lots of agencies track how many are being treated or cared for with dementia in 2000.

I'll bet this isn't the only answer, but I think it is an important one.
Very interesting questions... One thing that goes thru my mind about this, is there has to be a common denominator, some thread that connects it all. I am hearing about new tests to see if we have Alz/dementia, well I for one do not want to know. They are spending money to diagnose but still do not have effective meds to slow down or stop the progression.. And it seems the baby boomers, of which I am one, it is being predicted it will be an epidemic... and because each case is unique within itself, how are they ever going to find the cause....One thing I feel is missing in their research is those of us who deal with it on a daily basis.. they could gather so much data, on med interactions and reactions, behavior changes...how they cope or not cope with change, and the list goes on.. I feel we have a great deal to add to the research but are not being asked to participate... And as Jeanne said, they are keeping track of it now, where no telling how may have passed away undiagnosed... and one of my biggest complaints is how much money we are saving the government with home care, and are never recognized for that.... Guess it will take a revolution of Caregivers to stand up and be heard, but we are all so busy and tired and stressed, we don't' have the energy or brain cells to put into making that happen... I am very interested in what others will have to say about this... great topic, thanks for getting it started.... hugs to you.

ladeeda, you will be glad to know that the caregiver view is not entirely missed by the researchers. My husband is in a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and each year I fill out forms and have a one-hour interview. The researcher who sees my husband takes my observations and concerns very seriously. I can email him at any time. My husband is donating his brain (after he is done with it!) to this research. All dementia is not Alzeheimer's and the different types of dementia respond differently to various drugs, etc., so having a way to improve the accuracy of diagnosis (before autopsy) would help in getting started on the right treatment plan. The ultimate goal, of course, is to prevent dementia. This is not a local problem and the research efforts are world wide.
That is great news!!! How did you find out about this research and how did you get to be a part of it??? I know many who would be interested in participating in such a study if they knew how to get started.... and how awesome that your husband so involved that he will donate his brain to research... More of us on this sight need to know about these types of things and how to get started and to participate, maybe you could post something for everyone to see, with info... We have huge research hospitals here in Texas, but don't know of any programs for Alz/dementia.... there may be and just have not researched it...
Thanks for the info, will be spreading the word about this... I know some of our elders would love to be able to make a difference in this hateful awful disease....
hugs.
It is a true that cogitive impairment went unrecognized in the past...they called people "senile" or "not all there" and, of course, it was not treated. (most mental illness was not)
Both my fear and curiousity about this topic began when it seemed that an entire industry sprung up around Alzheimers/Dementia. Drug companies are hopping on the band wagon with all kinds of meds that have limited use or dangerous side effects. There are doctors specializing in this area, but the tests are inconclusive and they depend mostly on anecdotal information from families (the famlies should send the doctor their bill), and there are doctors who are misdiagnosing Alzheimers every time an elder walks through the door with a health issue. (it takes too much time to diagnose correctly, ie: a UTI, drug interaction, or simple forgetfulness of age that masks itself as Alz.) And as ladeeda wrote, "They are spending money to diagnose but still do not have effective meds to slow down or stop the progression."
I fear that there are many families who are in a hurry to have their elders diagnosed with Alz. in order to have access to their finances or take control. (I have witnessed this personally.)
I worry that the medical community and other related businesses, such as they are now, are salivating over the prospect of the boomers entering their elderhood. The main focus of most doctors that Mom has seen, is their bottom line. Their two methods of dealing with any patient are: pills and surgery. I would like to see an equal number of research dollars go into natural, non-toxic measures for preventing the disease. Western medicine is so "cure" oriented. Why have the disease first, then try and figure out how to "fix" it....with all the side effects, no less? I am not anti-western medicine, I just think we need better alternatives than the ones we have now.
I would also be interested in how social deprivation impacts Alz. We have always been told "use it or lose it" and I can't help but think that is true of our brains too. The most lively seniors I know are active in their communities and are interested in learning and personal growth...many have physical limitations. So, I wonder if that has something to do with their not having this illness.
When you have a disease that encompasses so many symptoms, I can see how challenging it would be to research it.
L & J: thanks for your input....enlightening!
Top Answer
I am convinced that it is mainly our modern diet. I say this because I have gone through it with my husband and have seen a total reversal within hours of giving him the kind of fat he needed. Many other can say the same. The low fat diets are killing brains that are composed mainly of fat. When we do eat fat we eat the wrong kind because we have been told that vegetable oils are good for us and animal fats and coconut oil that our grandparents ate is bad.
A lot of research has gone into this and is proving that oils like canola are bad and the very best oil for brain health is coconut oil, but the drug companies can't patent it, so they won't accept it. My husband's cognitive skills had gone down to 11 out of 30 and the doctor said I should put him in a nursing home but I found out about coconut oil and started giving it to him and within three hours he was talking in intelligible sentences. Within 2 weeks the doctor saw him and was amazed. He ordered a new test and he was 24 out of 30. Now he is perfectly normal again. If you are interested in his story go to YouTube and check GrandmaCarolFlett or search coconut oil and dementia.
Carol, this is interesting. I have never heard of this natural product being used in Dementia cases. I am a big fan of naturopathy...how did man survive for centuries before drug companies arrived on the scene?

I am very interested in this topic and will look around on the internet for more info. I am not at all surprised that doctors are skeptical. They are "chemistry" oriented. Everytime I ask a new doc if they are open to using both medical and naturopathic remedies they give me a blank stare.

I realize that, as with drugs, we need to use caution with natural supplements as well. But when I hear the long list of side effects of most drugs I am appalled. No doctor will ever discuss the side effects - mostly because THEY do not even know about them. The next thing you know there are all these law suits because of poorly researched pharmaceuticals. Then we keep the lawyers in business.

In my state, naturopathic doctors (NDs) cannot even practice or get a license. So much for choice.

I am glad your hub is doing better with the coconut oil. Are there any known side effects? I would be interested in hearing more.

I agree with you...we have ventured to far into "manufactured diets" and less into what is natural and best for our bodies.

I am wondering if any of our other forum members have tried this supplement and if they saw any noticable changes...

thanks for posting this information.
The only thing that might happen if the body is used to a low fat diet is a bit of diarrhea if you don't start slowly. If you are interested in reading more check Tropical Traditions for one, but there are many more sited about coconut oil.
Carol, I have been reading many articles on this subject right now...fascinating. My Mom has PD and I understand that coconut oil has been shown to reduce tremors for many patients. The biology makes sense....been reading about ketones too. I was just reading an article titled, "An Unlikely Food for a Starving Brain" and the work of Dr. Newport.

I think I may ask Mom to try this for PD tremors. She is so limited in mobility by the tremors and loss of balance. It couldn't hurt.

I noticed that there is a particular type that you need to buy. Correct? I will look at tropical traditions.

Would you consider starting a new thread about this topic? I would really like to see if other members have used coconut oil for both Alz. and PD and their results.
Bruce had bad tremors and they went away completely in about 3 months. I'm not sure how to start a new thread here.

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