Rosemary and Alzheimer’s Disease

Rosemary

Today there are five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and by the year 2050, the number is projected to be 13.5 million. My blog, aboutalz.com, is devoted to the subject and one article in particular talks about the new medicines in development. As seniors, we laugh about “senior moments,” but is there anything we can do to stave off Alzheimer’s? In a little booklet called, “Folk Remedies That Really Work,” contributing writer and botanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., says that the spice rosemary is sometimes called the herb of remembrance.

Rosemary contains five compounds that seem to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that’s deficient in patients with Alzheimer’s and important in memory and cognitive functions. Duke believes that rosemary works as well as the drug tacrine (Cognex). He says that tacrine works in only 25% of patients and it can cause liver damage.

Eating rosemary in dishes such as chicken and fish might reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s evidence that rosemary can be absorbed through the skin. So you can try putting rosemary springs into your bath, using rosemary shampoo, or rosemary lotion. Rosemary has a long history and even as far back as ancient Greece, students wore rosemary garlands while studying for exams because they believed that it improved their memory. Check out the spices in your supermarket and there may be (as there was in mine) a little sign telling you about rosemary and memory.

 

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Brain Rules: Part II

In my last post I introduced a wonderful book by John Medina, Brain Rules. I talked about his first chapter, the importance of exercise because it boosts brain power. In this post, I explore his Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.

In 1965, a 17-year old made the Guinness Book of World Records by not sleeping for 11 straight days. He became irritable, forgetful, nauseous and after five days he was actively hallucinating, became severely disoriented, and paranoid. He looked as though he had Alzheimer’s disease. In the last four days of the experiment, he lost motor function, his fingers trembled, and his speech slurred. However, on the final day he was able to beat scientist William Dement, who was studying him, at pinball for 100 consecutive times. Dement is often called the father of sleep research.

I used to think that many seniors don’t sleep well at night and therefore always needed a nap during the day. However, it appears that the biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal. The “nap zone” is literally fatal: More traffic accidents occurring during it than at any other time of day.

We know that lack of sleep hurts learning and cognitive skills. But it also affects other bodily functions:

  • ability to utilize food consumed falls by about one-third
  • ability to make insulin to extract energy from glucose falls dramatically
  • body’s stress hormone levels rise in an increasingly deregulated fashion
  • accelerate the aging process

Medina points out, “The bottom line is that sleep loss means mind loss. Sleep loss cripples thinking in just about every way you can measure thinking.” The amount of sleep each person needs varies, but we know for sure that it’s needed and we can certainly function a lot better by getting our requisite amount of sleep plus a power nap. Perhaps we’ll even have fewer “senior moments” and slow down our aging.

For previous posts that mentioned “sleep,” type “sleep” in the search box in the upper right corner.

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