Alzheimer's and Dementia
Well, it looks like Alzheimer's is set to become our next big medical terror. In the early 1900's it was infectious diseases. From 1950 to around 1975, it was heart disease; and then from the mid 70's to pretty much now, it's been cancer. But rising rapidly in our consciousness as it makes regular appearances on popular TV shows from Boston Legal to Grey's Anatomy, Alzheimer's looks ready to take its place as our new collective nightmare. So what is Alzheimer's? What do we know about it? What can we do about it?
Before we begin, though, let's separate dementia and Alzheimer's. They are not the same thing. Dementia simply refers to a progressive decline in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal aging. Alzheimer's is only one possible cause. Strokes, for example, may damage parts of the brain thus leading to dementia. Then again, common prescription drugs such as sleep aids, anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, allergy drugs, and even cold remedies can cause dementia as a side effect. How prevalent is this particular problem? According to some websites, it represents the vast majority of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's. More traditional authorities, of course, say side effects from prescription drugs are responsible for only a minority of such dementia cases, but even according to these same conservative sources, such side effects may still represent 15-30% of all dementia diagnoses.
In any event, it still leaves millions of people worldwide afflicted with true Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's, the statistics
- An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. The number of Americans with Alzheimer's has more than doubled since 1980.
- Worldwide, it is estimated that there are currently 18 million people with Alzheimer's disease. This figure is projected to nearly double by 2025 to 34 million people and reach 52 million by 2050.
- The cost of Alzheimer's, in the United States alone, was estimated to be $67.3 billion in 1991, climbing to at least $100 billion based on 1994 data -- with projections of at least $160 billion a year by 2010.
Alzheimer's, the facts
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer's. There probably is not one single cause, but several factors that affect each person differently.
- The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's is increasing age. Most individuals with the disease are 65 or older. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer's doubles about every five years after age 65. After age 85, the risk reaches nearly 50 percent.
- Risk genes increase the likelihood of developing the disease, but do not guarantee it will happen. Scientists have so far identified one Alzheimer risk gene called apoliprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4). They have also found rare genes that directly cause Alzheimer's in only a few hundred extended families worldwide.
- There appears to be a strong link between serious head injury and future risk of Alzheimer's. Modest head trauma, however, seems to produce no increased risk.
- Some of the strongest evidence links brain health to heart health. Your brain is nourished by one of your body's richest networks of blood vessels. Every heartbeat pumps about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your head, where brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen your blood carries. Reduce that flow, and you damage your brain.
- A study published in the Archives of Neurology linked sufferers of diabetes to a 65 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. A more recent study puts the risk at almost double.
- New research indicates that inflammatory stress leading to metabolic changes in brain proteins may be a significant factor.
- And finally, there is the much debated aluminum connection. Much of the ambiguity may be because researchers are looking at the wrong culprit. There are indications that aluminum by itself may not be a significant trigger for Alzheimer's, but aluminum fluoride may be.
Where does that leave us?
So what do we know from all of these facts and figures, other than that we are afraid and that Alzheimer's is going to cost us a great deal of money? Actually, when you look at the data as the proverbial forest and not just as a series of isolated trees, quite a bit.
- There probably is not one single cause, but several factors that affect each person differently. That means that the search for "The Cure for Alzheimer's" is likely to be fruitless, in addition to being extremely expensive -- but with massive amounts of research money available, it will continue nonetheless.
- It's not primarily related to genetics. Rather it's related to deteriorating conditions connected with the aging process.
- Most of those conditions can be ameliorated, or even reversed, through the use of diet and lifestyle changes and the use of supplements.
So what can we do?
So, given what we've observed above, what can we do to improve our odds of being among the 50% unafflicted group at age 85? As turns out, quite a lot, and even better, nothing other than what you should already be doing to maintain optimum health. If you're following the Baseline of Health® Program, you're already covered. For those of you not familiar with the Baseline of Health® Program, you can download a free copy of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors. It lays out the whole program in detail. But in summary, as it applies to Alzheimer's:
The connection of Alzheimer's with cardiovascular disease would appear to have two primary components: (1) reduced flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain resulting from restricted arteries and (2) inflammation of areas of the brain caused by many of the same factors that cause inflammation of arterial tissue, which leads to the hardening of the arteries and the build up of arterial plaque.
- Obviously, dietary changes such as avoiding heavy consumption of saturated fats and transfatty acids make sense.
- Reduce consumption of high Omega-6 vegetables oils.
- Supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids is obviously essential.
- Reduce homocysteine levels by using a supplement that includes B12, folic acid, and TMG. Also, regular use of methylation supplements such as SAMe is useful.
Systemic inflammation is starting to emerge as one of the biggest risk factors you face. It is now implicated in everything from heart disease to cancer to Alzheimer's. Reducing that inflammation is not difficult.
- Again, Omega-3 fatty acids play a key role here. Supplement!
- A good systemic proteolytic enzyme formula can work wonders here.
The primary culprit when it comes to diabetes appears to be glycation. Glycation is the uncontrolled reaction of sugars with proteins. It's kind of like what happens to sugars when you heat them and they caramelize. In effect, glycation is what happens when excess sugars caramelize the proteins in your body. It's a major factor in the aging process -- and it's particularly devastating to diabetics. Thanks largely to the destructive effect of sugar and aldehydes, the protein in our bodies tends to undergo destructive changes as we age. This destruction is a prime factor, not only in the aging process itself, but also in the familiar signs of aging such as wrinkling skin, cataracts, and the destruction of our nervous system -- particularly our brains.
- Reducing consumption of high glycemic foods such as sugars and refined grains is step one.
- Reducing the impact of any high glycemic foods that you do eat and optimizing the metabolism of carbohydrates in general is step two.
- Reversing the damage caused by any of the sugars and alcohols that sneak through is step three.
- A formula comprised of L. carnosine, DMAE, and Acetyl-l-carnitine, can help reverse damage caused by beta amyloid plaque in the brain, a primary Alzheimer's suspect. I have seen such a formula produce dramatic improvements in as little as 24-72 hours.
- Other supplements that can help include CoQ10 and Gingko biloba.
Not just aluminum and fluoride, but all heavy metals including lead can cause deterioration of brain function.
- Regular use of a good chelating formula makes a great deal of sense.
And finally there's exercise, not just physical but also mental.
- Regular aerobic exercise improves oxygen flow to the brain. Even regular dancing has been shown to help.
- Weight bearing exercise can increase human growth hormone production by as much as 800%.
- Stretching exercise opens up circulation to every area of the body.
- Thinking exercises that challenge your mind make a difference. Playing bridge, chess, or a musical instrument all help. In fact, studies have shown that people who do 4 crossword puzzles a week have a 47% reduced risk of Alzheimer's. What do you think about that?