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Alzheimer’s, Memory and Depression

I visited my Godparents yesterday; they’re in their mid 90′s and have been married for 70 years. Jean cares for Geoff who’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s for some time. Whenever I’ve seen him over the past year, he’s been mostly incoherent – yet this time, it was like the clock had been turned back …

the normal brain is on the right; the considerably shrunken alzheimer's brain is on the left

I was so surprised to be welcomed by Geoff with a warm smile of recognition and greeted affectionately by my name. For over three hours, we had a beautiful conversation about all things past and also my present day world, his frustration over his illness and his worries about the pressures he puts on his wife. We had a lively debate about about business, politics and the news. It was just like being with the “old” Geoff and I have to say this completely took me by surprise, given the wild ramblings which I’d sadly anticipated based upon recent experience.

Jean wasn’t in the least bit surprised. “That bloody medication the doctors were prescribing just wasn’t helping,” she explained. It’s funny hearing her use an expletive, even a mild one – however her emphasis of the word made clear to me how strongly she was feeling. “So I did my own research. I found an article in The Daily Mail some time ago about how they’re doing research at Oxford University on the use of Vitamin B Complex supplements with Alzheimer’s sufferers so I decided I’d buy some and try it. I’ll do anything to help him and make the time that he has left as positive as possible. So I found a good supplement and I started giving it to him in January of this year – and now listen at him. He’s like this every day. No confusion, no hallucinations – his mind and his conversation seem almost normal again. He’ll probably outlive me now!” Then her face dropped and she looked incredibly sad. “I do worry about that. He’d have to go in a home to be cared for because of the Parkinson’s that he has too and I couldn’t live with myself if ever I couldn’t care for him.” The love they have for each other and the strength of their bond is so touching and Jean’s commitment to Geoff is all enduring.

So I decided to take a look into the Vitamin B theory myself. Professor David Smith is the founding Director of OPTIMA, Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing, which studies the causes of dementia. Last year, they recruited 270 elderly people with memory problems and gave them Vitamin B products – 800 micrograms of Folic Acid, 500 milligrams of B12 and 20 milligrams of B6. This supplement – which costs as little as 10 pence per day – has been found to slow shrinkage of the brain by an average of 30 percent per year. It has also slowed the rate of cognitive decline in people with high blood levels of homocysteine. This is an amino acid and high levels can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s three or four fold. You can read more about OPTIMA’s work here.

I’m no Doctor or medic and clearly I’m in no way, shape or form qualified to suggest that if someone close to you is suffering with memory loss, Dementia or Alzerimer’s you should be making changes to their medication off your own back. However there’s every reason that you should be aware of what options there are which potentially could help and you might want to discuss this with a medical practitioner. If you’re interested in the specific product which Geoff has been taking, you can find it {LNK URL=”” Title=”here”}.

The little research that I’ve done has revealed that the B-Complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional wellbeing and can also help with some cases of depression. They cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins are destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in these.

So for those of us fortunate enough to have our faculties intact, I wonder whether prevention is better than cure? I’m going to be investigating the best Vitamin B complex products out there and I shall be embarking upon adding this supplement to my daily diet. You might consider doing similar, however of course you need to do your own research and you might choose to speak to a Nutritionist or medical expert first.

Be outstanding …