Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for about 60% to 70% of cases of dementia or mental degeneration. A lingering neuro degenerative disease, it usually starts gradually and gets worse over a period of time.
The most common symptom that occurs at an early stage is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss).
As the disease progresses, various symptoms develop gradually. Such indications include problems with speaking, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self-care and behavioural issues.
As the disease advances, the person’s condition declines steadily. They often withdraw from their friends, family and society.
Bit by bit, physical activities and functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the average life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.
Dementia defines a decline in memory and thinking that interferes with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in old age, affecting about 5 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is fully not understood. About 70% of the cases are believed to be genetic.
Secondary risk factors include a history of head injuries, depression, or hypertension.
So, a burning question is whether the intake of Vitamin D supplements or spending more time, exposing your skin to the sun will help prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia? Maybe, the exposure to Vitamin D might help.
A novel research proposes people with vitamin D deficiency, having very low levels of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
A study was carried out in the field of Neurology and the results were published in the year 2014. It showed people with extremely scarce blood levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia as compared to those with sufficient vitamin D levels. Furthermore, extensive research is still needed to show cause and effect.
Vitamin D is an essential component for the bone formation and aids in the metabolic activities related to the bones. It is also essential for calcium absorption along with proper functioning of the brain.
Some research studies suggest that Vitamin D may be involved in a variety of processes related to cognition. But, more research is needed to understand this relationship in a better possible manner.
Most of our vitamin D is produced within the body when exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D occurs in few foods like fatty fish, cod-liver oils, milk, breakfast cereals, eggs, mushrooms and orange juice.
Vitamin D supplements are also widely available.
Vitamin D deficiency is common amongst older adults, partially because the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun decreases with age.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily dose of Vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) per day for adults under age 70 and 800 IU per day for adults over 70.
Low Vitamin D Levels may boost Alzheimer’s risk. Yet, more studies are needed to determine if vitamin D deficiency is indeed a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and if treatment with vitamin D supplements or sun exposure can prevent or treat these conditions.
In the year, 2014, a research study was carried out where it was observed that older adults with insufficient vitamin D levels in their blood may have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as compared to the elders with sufficient levels of the Vitamin D.
The research was based on more than 1,600 adults over age 65. It was found that the threat for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia increased with the severity of vitamin D deficiency.
Further clinical trials are urgently needed in this area, a study researcher David Llewellyn, a senior research fellow in clinical epidemiology at the University Of Exeter Medical School in England chipped in.
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining bone health. It is also thought to moderate cell growth and help control immune function and inflammation.
Another previous study was carried out in the year 1992-93 and 1999, wherein the researchers looked at mentally healthy men and women who participated in the U.S. Cardiovascular Health Study between. Their blood samples were collected and their mental status was assessed roughly six years later.
Participants’ vitamin D blood levels reflected vitamin D from food, supplements and sun exposure. Dietary sources include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel, as well as milk, eggs and cheese.
During the follow-up, those with low levels of vitamin D were about 1.7 times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal levels. Those with severely low levels were about 2.2 times more likely than those with normal levels to develop dementia, the study found.
Experts disagree about the best blood level of vitamin D. In this study, risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s significantly increased below a threshold of 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L), the researchers said.
Exactly how low vitamin D may be linked with dementia isn’t known. Experts speculate that the vitamin may clear plaques in the brain linked with dementia. This has been shown in the lab, Fargo said. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with brain atrophy as well, according to background information in the study.
Until more research is in, Fargo recommended that people ”Try to eat a brain- healthy diet,” which is the same as a heart-healthy diet. That includes foods low in fat and cholesterol.
Getting regular physical activity and keeping blood pressure under control are other good measures, Fargo said.
Looking at the clinical research data that was obtained from the research studies concluded that the appropriate levels of Vitamin D might help to prevent critical conditions such as developing Alzheimer’s disease.