Link Between Vitamin D and Alzheimer's Disease
Synopsis: Researchers have discovered there is a link between vitamin D and the way the human brain works.1
Author: Thomas C. Weiss Contact: Disabled World
Published: 2014-08-15 Updated: 2018-02-27
Alzheimer's disease is a condition that affects a person's memory and thinking and may cause changes in their behavior. The main symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include poor judgment in making decisions, memory loss that affects your daily life, as well as changes in your personality such as becoming suspicious, upset, or anxious. Medical science does not know exactly what causes the disease. The main things that may influence whether or not you develop Alzheimer's disease are a combination of your family history, age and genetics.
Researchers have discovered a link between vitamin D and your brain. Receptors for vitamin D have been found in a number of parts of the brain, meaning that vitamin D is acting in some way in your brain and might have an influence on the way people learn, think and behave. Research from a number of studies has revealed that Alzheimer's disease and dementia are more common in those who experience low levels of vitamin D in their body.
There have not; however, been many high-quality experiments that would be able to show with clarity whether low vitamin D levels cause Alzheimer's disease. More research is needed to provide a plainer answer concerning whether taking a vitamin D supplement may help to prevent or even treat Alzheimer's disease. If you have Alzheimer's disease, or you are attempting to prevent it and want to take vitamin D, it is not likely to make your symptoms any worse or cause you any harm as long as you take less than 10,000 I.U. each day. If you have Alzheimer's disease, you should not take vitamin D instead of prescribed medications.
Alzheimer's disease is a condition that causes a person to experience memory issues as well as changes in their behavior. The disease is usually progressive, meaning it develops slowly and worsens over time. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. 'Dementia,' is a medical term used for memory loss that is serious enough that it interferes with a person's daily life. At this time there is no cure for the disease. If you have Alzheimer's disease there are 2 main changes that take place in your brain. People with Alzheimer's disease experience:
Tangles: Tangles are dying or dead nerve cells which stop nutrients from moving through cells, causing them to die.
Plaques: Plaques are clusters of proteins that build up between the nerve cells in a person's brain and stop cells from signaling each other.
Chart showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease
Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease causes a number of symptoms in those who experience the disease. The symptoms people with Alzheimer's disease may experience include the following:
- Memory loss affecting daily living
- Poor judgment when making decisions
- Trouble with reading or judging distances
- Difficulties with planning or solving issues
- Confusion about the time and place a person is
- Withdrawing from hobbies, work and social activities
- Inability to complete the same tasks a person used to be able to
- Changes in personality or mood such as becoming suspicious, upset, or anxious
The symptoms are different from some average changes that occur as people age, such as occasionally forgetting names, or losing items from time to time. If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms described above, it is important to contact a doctor.
Causes of Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists know the disease involves cells in a person's brain failing and the development of tangles and plaques, yet the do not know why this happens. Over time, as brain cells die, a person's brain shrinks - which affects the way the brain works. Alzheimer's disease is the result of a number of different factors working together, not simply a single cause. While there are many things that increase a person's chances of developing Alzheimer's disease, scientists remain unsure of what causes some people to get it.
The main things that might influence whether or not a person develops Alzheimer's disease are a combination of their family history, their age, as well as their genetics. After a person reaches the age of 65, their chances of experiencing Alzheimer's disease double for every 5 years they age. At the age of 85, 1 in every 2 people develops Alzheimer's disease.
Chart showing risk factors for Alzheimer's disease
Risk Factors for Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease is very common - millions of Americans live with the disease. 1 in 9 people over the age of 65 experience Alzheimer's disease. You are more likely to get Alzheimer's disease if you:
- Are over the age of 65
- Are Hispanic or Black
- Have had a serious head injury, particularly repeated injuries
- Have an immediate family history of a person with Alzheimer's disease
- Have genes that are involved with the development of Alzheimer's disease
- Experience other health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or if you have had a stroke
The Link Between Alzheimer's Disease and Vitamin D
Researchers have discovered there is a link between vitamin D and the way a person's brain works. Of the numerous ways that vitamin D may affect how a person's brain works, researchers are starting to study if not receiving enough vitamin D might affect whether a person develops dementias, to include Alzheimer's disease.
Receptors for vitamin D have been found in several parts of the brain. Receptors are found on the surface of a cell where they receive chemical signals. By attaching themselves to a receptor, these chemical signals direct a cell to do something. For example; to behave in a certain way, divide, or perish.
Some of the receptors in a person's brain are ones for vitamin D, meaning that vitamin D is acting in some way in the brain and influencing the way a person thinks, acts and learns. Researchers have discovered that in people with Alzheimer's disease there are fewer vitamin D receptors in a part of the brain called the, 'hippocampus,' which is involved in the formation of memories.
A person's brain relies on vitamin D receptors for protection against things that have the potential to damage it, to include the development of the tangles and plaques that form in Alzheimer's disease. The way receiving enough vitamin D affects a brain with dementia is still under study, yet scientists do know that vitamin D receptors work in various ways to protect a person's brain. Researchers are still exploring whether taking vitamin D supplements may help to prevent memory loss and dementia.
Preventing Alzheimer's Disease
A growing amount of recent research on the link between vitamin D and the way a person's brain works, to include Alzheimer's disease and dementia, now exists. Another item of research showed that people with low levels of vitamin D perform worse on tests designed to measure how well their brain is working. Most recent studies that have been performed are called, 'observational studies.' What this means is they can only find a link between vitamin D and Alzheimer's disease, but they do not know if not receiving enough vitamin D actually causes the disease.
Generally, research has discovered that people with Alzheimer's disease have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood. Two recent journal articles, which reviewed all of the studies involving vitamin D and Alzheimer's disease, showed that vitamin D levels are lower in people with Alzheimer's disease than those without. Again - researchers are unable to say with certainty whether receiving enough vitamin D may prevent Alzheimer's disease or dementia. One theory; for example, is that if a person has memory loss, or if they develop dementia, they could be staying inside more and making less vitamin D from exposure to the sun, leading to low levels of vitamin D in their body.
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