Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Alzheimer's - 9 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia in which many functions of the brain are severely affected including memory, speech, visual perception, cognition, and weakness. The deterioration can occur slowly or rapidly. Although Alzheimer's appears to come on suddenly, it is usually years and decades of neuron death before symptoms appear. Usually the affected person has only 20% of the involved brain cells left at time of noticeable symptoms.

Why is short-term memory most affected in Alzheimer's disease?

The reason short-term memory is affected first is because it is the newest memory. The longer a memory is stored, the more resistant it is to brain injury or brain damage. So in Alzheimer's disease, the long-term memories are affected last, after loss of short-term memories.

What causes Alzheimer's disease?

Could it be a trauma or injury to the brain? Could it be stress? Could it be lifestyle? Could it be lack of a certain supplement? Could it be the processed foods we consume? Could it be excitotoxins? Could it be a combination of the above?

Excitotoxins appear to play a major role. The definition given by Dr. Russell Blaylock in his excellent book Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills describes excitotoxins as substances added to foods and beverages that stimulate neurons to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees. Excitotoxins include monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame (Nutrasweet), cysteine, hydrolyzed protein, and aspartic acid.

Biochemical examination of brains of those dying with Alzheimer's has shown that over 60% of NMDA type glutamate receptor neurons are destroyed. As a matter of fact, most neurons that are affected use glutamate or aspartate as their receptor. When MSG or aspartame is consumed in large dosages or injected in experimental animals, the neurons are killed or damaged similar to the way the cells in humans brains with Alzheimer's are damaged. What does this mean? The aspartame and the MSG added to many of our foods and soft drinks are affecting our brains. Excitotoxins accumulates in the brain so having a couple of soft drinks a week can still cause damage.

There are other facts that increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease. They include those who've had a head injury, inflammation, hypoglycemia, and magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency is critical because when brain magnesium levels are low, aluminum collects in the brain. High levels of aluminum does not directly cause Alzheimer's but does inhibit production of acetylcholine which is important for memory functions of the brain.

What can you do to prevent or reduce your risk of Alzheimer's Disease? Here are nine ways to reduce your risk. 
  1. Avoid ALL excitotoxin foods especially MSG, aspartame (diet soft drinks), and hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
  2. Reduce free radical damage by taking vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, and E.  Just remember ACE when you go shopping.
  3. Reduce inflammation by supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids.  Carlson's cod liver oil (lemon flavored) not only has omega-3 fatty acids but also vitamins A and D. If you are vegetarian, flaxseed oil may be a substitute.
  4. Stabilize blood sugar by eating complex carbohydrates. Have small meals throughout the day or carry healthy snacks such as trail mix (with nuts) for energy. Stay away from simple sugars and soda in all it's destructive forms.
  5. Take a magnesium supplement. Stay away from soda, especially colas, because they contain phosphates. Phosphates are known to deplete the body's magnesium.
  6. Do not drink soft drinks of any kind. I know I've been redundant here but I cannot stress enough how toxic these drinks are in any form. If you drink diet sodas, you are ingesting aspartame and phosphates (colas), increasing your risk of Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's, and cancer. If you drink the sugared versions, you are ingesting simple sugars and phosphates, increasing your risk of diabetes, Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's, osteoporosis (phosphates and caffeine deplete calcium), obesity, and cancer.
  7. Caffeine is a mild stimulant. Stimulants stress neurons. Studies for coffee have been conflicting regarding Alzheimer's. Some studies have shown coffee drinkers to have lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. My recommendation is to drink coffee in moderation (no more than two 8 ounce cups per day) and less (one 6 ounce cup per day) if you are at high risk of developing Alzheimer's. Better yet switch to green tea. It still contains caffeine at lower levels but also has the added benefits of antioxidants. 
  8. Stay socially active and keep a positive attitude. Those that have negative attitudes and those who are antisocial or isolate themselves have a higher risk of dementia.
  9. Exercise.  Studies have shown that those that exercise everyday have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's.
If I haven't scared you enough, I have a relative with Alzheimer's who spent many years drinking diet soft drinks. And remember the Diet Pepsi commercials with Michael J. Fox. In an interview with "Rolling Stone" magazine in the 1980s, Michael was asked if he really drank Diet Pepsi. He said yes and not only did he drink Diet Pepsi, he drank at least one liter every day. I often wonder if Michael knows the connection between the soda he drank (hoping that is past tense) and his Parkinson's disease.  Parkinson's is another disease that destroys neurons in the brain.

If you have any comments, please post them or any questions you would like to ask personally, click on the Contact at top of page.
In health always :-)

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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