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? The answer to the all the questions is yes.
If you have had brain injury, your risk is higher than those that have not. However, if you had repetitive brain injury caused from playing sports like football, your risk increases significantly, Ex-NFL players aged 30-49 have 19 times the risk of the non-NFL players in the same age group. (1)
Stress also tops the list as a trigger of Alzheimer's. In a study in Argentina, 3 out of 4 participants with Alzheimer's were found to have severe emotional stress during the two years prior to diagnosis.(2)
Excitotoxins also 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 have chronic 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 do not directly cause Alzheimer's but it 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 the 20 best ways to reduce your risk.
- Stabilize blood sugar by eating protein with every meal. 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.
- Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain barrier, the barrier that keeps things out of your brain where they don’t belong, is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don’t belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
- Take a probiotic supplement or eat fermented foods. Probiotics increase the good bacteria in your gut and reduce the bad. Most nutrients enter the blood stream and brain through the intestinal wall. If the gut isn't healthy, neither will your brain.
- Increase consumption of healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3s. Avoid most fish except wild Alaskan salmon. Although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most fish is severely contaminated with mercury and PCBs. High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, slowing its progression or lowering your risk of developing the disorder in the first place. Taking a good quality fish or cod liver oil such as Carlson's brand, eating eggs with omega-3, eating meat from animals grass fed, and using coconut oil in recipes and for cooking are better alternatives.
- Reduce your overall calorie consumption, and/or intermittently fast. Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but ketones, which is the fat that your body mobilizes when you stop feeding it carbs and introduce coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats into your diet. A one-day fast can help your body to “reset” itself, and start to burn fat instead of sugar.
- Improve your magnesium levels. There is some exciting preliminary research strongly suggesting a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements do not pass the blood brain levels, but a new one, magnesium threonate, appears to and holds some promise for the future for treating this condition and may be superior to other forms. Stay away from soda, especially colas, because they contain phosphates. Phosphates are known to deplete the body's magnesium and calcium levels.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health. Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's.
- Take Vitamin B12 especially if you are a Vegan. A small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology also found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12, the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by two percent. Remember, sublingual methylcobalamin may be your best bet here.
- Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate, Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day.
- Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. You should have them removed. Also avoid the flue vaccine as most contain both mercury and aluminum.
- Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.
- Avoid anticholinergic and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine or anticholinergics have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers. Statin drugs prevent the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of Co-enzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain. Cholesterol has never been proven to prevent heart disease and is necessary for brain function. No reason to block this critical nutrient. Read the book The Great Cholesterol Con for further information.
- Avoid ALL excitotoxins. MSG, aspartame (diet soft drinks), and anything with the word hydrolyzed in front of it. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed protein, etc. Excitotoxins kill brain neurons.
- Reduce free radical damage. Eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables every day. Include blueberries, apples, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. If you don't eat at least one fruit (preferably berries) and seven variety of vegetables, then take an antioxidant daily or vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, and E. Just remember ACE when you go shopping.
- Reduce inflammation by supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids. Contrary to popular belief the brain needs cholesterol to thrive. Beneficial health-promoting fats that include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called organic grass fed raw butter, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado.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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Exercise regularly. Studies have shown that those that exercise everyday have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's.
- Avoid aluminum. Aluminum is found in antiperspirants, vaccines (including flu vaccines which contain both mercury and aluminum), bleached flours, and non-stick cookware.
- Eliminate Chronic Stress. Last but not least because chronic stress is the main trigger of most diseases. If you do all of the above and have chronic stress in your life than you will be guaranteed to develop a chronic illness if not Alzheimer's disease. Studies have shown that a majority of people who develop Alzheimer's had chronic stress in their lives for the 2 to 3 years prior to diagnosis. No stress is worth losing your mind over.
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Have a happy and healthy New Year!