Alzheimer’s Disease: Are You Protecting Yourself?
by Karla Schmidt, CN
Alzheimer’s disease can seem overwhelming, fear-provoking and mysterious. There are still many unknowns about this disease, but what is alarmingly evident is the rate at which it is growing in the United States. According to Alzheimer’s Association’s 2017 Disease Facts and Figures Report, more than ﬁve million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. By 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million, fueled in large part by the gaining baby boomer generation. In reality, every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. develops this incurable and deadly form of dementia. Currently, more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for family members and friends with Alzheimer’s — a disease that radically changes the quality of life for both loved ones and caretakers alike.
Alzheimer’s Impact on the Brain
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that attacks and destroys brain cells (neurons), resulting in loss of memory, thinking, language skills and behavioral changes. According to well-documented clinical studies, along with the Alzheimer’s Association, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation and deposition of two poorly-made proteins: the ﬁrst being beta-amyloid (beta-amyloid plaques), found outside neurons. The second is neuroﬁbrillary taus (tau tangles), found inside neurons.
Beta-amyloid plaques are believed to contribute to cell death by interfering with cell-to-cell communication along signal pathways, while tau tangles block the transport of essential nutrients inside brain cells. These detrimental accumulations lead to loss of connections between brain cells and eventually to the death of cells and loss of brain tissue — resulting in the progressive loss of most cognitive functions. As more brain cells die, symptoms worsen. Eventually people don’t recognize family members, have trouble speaking, writing, and may even forget how to do basic skills such as brushing their teeth.
Proactive Lifestyle Steps For Lowering Your Risk
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with multiple risk factors. Although risk factors such as age and family history cannot be changed, other risk factors can be changed to reduce risk of cognitive decline and dementia. As researchers across the globe race towards discovering a cure, their focus has broadened from treatment to prevention strategies. Strong clinical evidence reveals three “modiﬁable” risk factors that reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and may reduce the risk of dementia. They include:
- Regular Exercise – (150 minutes/week – moderate intensity)According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise may reduce one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent.
- Eat a Healthy Diet - Consuming a whole-food based diet (sans processed foods, trans fats, reﬁned carbohydrates, including sugars) with special emphasis on Mediterranean-style eating, including consumption of healthy fats, has been shown to lower one’s risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Stop Smoking - Observational studies have shown that people who smoke are at higher risk of developing all types of dementia and a much higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease, speciﬁcally. Smoking has been found to increase oxidative stress and inﬂammation within and around all cells, including brain cells.
Research-Backed Nutrients Beneﬁt Cognitive Function
In addition to lifestyle changes, a growing number of scientiﬁcally-supported nutritional supplements have demonstrated their ability to prevent and/or slow the progression of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Neuroprotective & Memory-Enhancing Nutrients
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)
- A large amount of epidemiological studies have associated sufﬁcient intake of cold-water oily ﬁsh and/or pure, high-quality ﬁsh oil supplements with lowered risks of impaired cognitive function, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. EPA and DHA are the long-chained fatty acids found in ﬁsh oil.
- Research has recognized DHA’s critical role as a primary structural component of all brain cells and its involvement in the development of neuronal pathways for decades. In fact, several studies have shown a direct correlation between a deﬁciency in DHA and impaired cognitive function.
- EPA and DHA have been shown to play a crucial role in lowering inﬂammation and oxidative stress, which reduces damage to neurons and protects them from cell death.
- Its phospholipid-structure is an essential component of all cell membranes. It builds and maintains neuronal cell membranes, protecting the cells from degeneration.
- Has been shown to promote cell-to-cell communication due to its ability to act as a reservoir for Choline. Choline, a must-have precursor to the formation of acetylcholine, our vital neurotransmitter that is required for all major signaling pathways.
- Studies have also suggested that PC may act as a major carrier of DHA across the blood brain barrier — an important role, because DHA cannot be made in the brain and therefore must be imported across that blood-brain-barrier (BBB).
- As a potent antioxidant, Curcumin works to reduce excessive oxidative stress and toxic burden by neutralizing free radicals inside neuron cells — improving their ability to function and survive. Mounting scientiﬁc evidence points to oxidative stress as a major contributor to neurodegenerative disease.
- Exerts potent anti-inﬂammatory properties which protect neurons from damage and cell death.
- Has been found to reduce the production of and promote the clearance of poorly made proteins (amyloid-beta plaques and tau tangles) that interfere with signaling pathways important to cell-to-cell communication.
- Huperzine A is a compound isolated from the Chinese medicinal herb known as Huperzia serrata, or club moss. It has been found to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain (the critical neurotransmitter) — thereby improving the cells’ ability to communicate with each other.
- It also has been found to reduce damage to neurons and protect them from cell death by lowering levels of oxidative stress and inﬂammation.
- In addition, studies have revealed its role in reducing the production of poorly-made proteins (amyloid-
- beta plaques), which are known to obstruct cell-to-cell communication and cause cell death.