To Your Health
August, 2012 (Vol. 06, Issue 08)
Top 10 Lifestyle Strategies to Help Prevent Alzheimer's
By James P. Meschino, DC, MS
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 for which medical treatments are unable to prevent or slow the progression of the disease to any appreciable degree.
Currently, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's and nearly half of all people over 85 years of age are afflicted.
Alzheimer's disease consumes $200 billion of the U.S. health care budget annually. Unless baby boomers take preventive action immediately, Alzheimer's disease statistics will begin to soar in the very near future, as the leading edge of the baby boomers began turning 65 years old in 2011.
Research reveals that only 2 percent of all Alzheimer's disease cases are linked to genetic inheritance. So, what is causing the other 98 percent of cases? In recent years many studies have shown that specific dietary and supplementation practices play a major role in the development of Alzheimer's disease – and in its prevention. The following is a quick list of the lifestyle recommendations you should implement immediately to help prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease, according to the pooled evidence of peer-reviewed research.
1. Control Your Cholesterol
Keep your blood cholesterol below 3.9 mmol/L (150 mg/dL) by consuming a low-animal-fat diet, avoiding as much trans fats, hydrogenated fats and organ meats as possible, as well as other foods high in cholesterol (e.g., egg yolks). These foods elevate blood cholesterol levels, which clog brain arteries, leading to cerebrovascular disease – a major contributing factor to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, is caused by insufficient blood flow to brain cells. It is a direct extension of atherosclerosis due to high cholesterol levels, and is often compounded by hypertension, diabetes and smoking.
2. Balance Your Blood Sugar
Keep your fasting blood sugar (glucose) level below 5.0 mmol/L (90 mg/dL), as higher glucose (and insulin levels, which result from high glucose) lead to type 3 diabetes – a form of Alzheimer's disease caused by high blood glucose and insulin. It is well-established that individuals with type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's than nondiabetic patients; insulin-dependent diabetics have four times the risk.
One reason for this is explained by the fact that there is an enzyme in the brain that breaks down both insulin and amyloid plaque – a hallmark feature of Alzheimer's disease. Thus, in cases in which insulin levels are high (which occurs when blood sugar is too high), the brain enzyme is so busy breaking down insulin that it allows amyloid plaque to build up. High levels of amyloid plaque (a protein also known as beta-amyloid protein), essentially "strangles" brain cells from the outside and generates copious amounts of free radicals, further damaging brain cell structure and function.
High blood sugar also increases brain inflammation, which contributes to Alzheimer's disease development. As well, Alzheimer's brains demonstrate insulin resistance, which is triggered by sustained high blood-sugar levels.
3. Remain at Your Ideal Body Weight
Overweight individuals have a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease, primarily due to higher levels of circulating insulin (insulin resistance produced by larger fat cells) and glucose levels – leading to type 3 diabetes.
4. Take a Daily Multivitamin/Mineral
Take a high-potency multiple vitamin/mineral each day that contains a B-50 complex, 1,000 IU of vitamin D6 and the following antioxidants: vitamin E (400 IU) and vitamin C (1,000 mg). Studies show that, after age 60, the brain begins to shrink (atrophy) by 0.5-2.0 percent per year. People who develop cognitive dysfunction (a prelude to Alzheimer's disease) and Alzheimer's disease show a faster rate of brain atrophy.