Alzheimers disease, also known as dementia, is growing at epidemic rates among the older population. There are now 5.4 million Americans — including one in eight people aged 65 and over — living with Alzheimers disease, according to the Alzheimers Association. In the next 20 years, it is projected that number will double, at least.
As usual, most of the attention is being put on developing treatments for it, rather than focusing on Alzheimers disease prevention. But that's where the money is with any disease — in the treatment of it, not in preventive measures.
Although we don't know what causes Alzheimers, it's safe to say that it's probably a combination of factors. Poor diet and lack of exercise have to be considered primary causes, as they are for most degenerative diseases. Beyond that?
Exposure to toxins, particularly aluminum and mercury, is certainly a suspect as a major cause for Alzheimers. Common sources of aluminum exposure are antiperspirants and non-stick cookware. Aluminum is also a common additive found in processed foods such as cheeses, table salt, baking powders, pickles, bleached flour, cake mixes, non-dairy creamers and some donuts and waffles. Infant formulas may contain up to four hundred times more aluminum than breast milk.
Dental amalgam fillings and larger species of fish such as tuna are some of the major sources of mercury exposure. Most flu vaccines also contain both mercury and aluminum. Alzheimers disease prevention starts with limiting your exposure to these toxins.
Antacids often contain aluminum hydroxide or aluminum trisilicate; they can contain 200 milligrams or more of elemental aluminum in a single tablet.
Aluminum can also be found in toothpastes, nasal sprays, cigarette filters and pesticides. Some metal cleaners contain aluminum oxide. Aluminum is present in popular over-the-counter and prescription medicines such as buffered aspirin.
Some prescription drugs have also been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include some night-time pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, and some narcotic pain relievers.
Electromagnetic radiation is another factor I would strongly suspect, although there's no hard evidence yet. This makes sense, though, since radiation has been shown to cause biological changes in brain cells, including disrupted inter-cellular communication. This effect has been compared to an accelerated aging process, and Alzheimers is certainly associated with aging.
Electromagnetic radiation (EMF) is all around you these days; scientists estimate that we're being exposed to millions of times more radiation than our grandparents' generation was. Electromagnetic radiation is emitted by your cell phone and all other wireless devices, as well as all electrical appliances as well. It would be foolish to assume that this has no effect on you.
Recommended ways of limiting your exposure to electromagnetic radiation:
Aspartame and MSG are two other prime suspects for the cause of Alzheimers disease. Both of these food additives are known to cause damage to brain cells, and their use has been increasing significantly in the last 30 years. MSG is used in virtually all processed foods, although it's usually not identified in the list of ingredients.
Now, again, we don't know any sure-fire methods on how to prevent Alzheimers. But, as with many degenerative diseases, there are many common-sense steps you can take to better your odds. Many different diet and lifestyle changes have been studied as potential preventive measures that you can take against Alzheimers
Exercise is one item that's on any list of Alzheimers prevention protocols. Studies have shown that high-intensity aerobic exercise for six months is enough to improve brain function in those already suffering from mild cognitive impairment.
Another study found that moderate exercise during midlife led to a 39 percent decreased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, while moderate exercise late in life was associated with a 32 percent lower risk. So you see, exercise goes a long way to prevent Alzheimers.
Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, has also been shown to be of benefit in Alzheimers prevention.
Eating a healthy diet high in antioxidants is an important part of an Alzheimers disease prevention. Lots of vegetables, berries (especially blueberries), herbs and spices, and omega 3 fats.
Omega 3 fats are critical for your nervous system, especially your brain. Certain omega 3 fats are converted into substances called neuroprotectins; low levels of these neuroprotectins is associated with Alzheimer's disease. The omega 3 fat DHA also protects your cells from gene mutations that can lead to Alzheimers and other brain diseases. About half of your brain is made up of fat, much of which is DHA — making it an essential nutrient for optimal brain function.
One recent study found that older adults with higher blood levels of omega 3 fats were one-third less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those with lower omega 3 levels. Another study found that, after 6 months of DHA supplementation, performance by healthy seniors on memory tests improved significantly.
Coconut Oil is a great source of fuel for your brain, and may be a key therapeutic tool to be used in the treatment of Alzheimers.
One of the primary fuels your brain needs is glucose. Alzheimer's victims often can't process glucose into fuel efficiently. Portions of their brain start to atrophy, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.
But there's an alternative source of energy for the brain, known as ketones. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. Ketones appear to be the preferred source of brain food in patients affected by Alzheimers.
A primary source of ketone bodies are medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are fats that are processed by your body differently from long chain triglycerides — your body treats MCTs as a carbohydrate and not a fat.
The best food source of medium chain triglycerides is coconut oil; it contains about 66 percent MCTs. Coconut oil has been condemned by dietitians solely for the fact that it's a saturated fat, and saturated fats are blamed for the high rate of heart disease that we see today. This is completely false assumption based on flawed data — coconut oil is not only the healthiest fat there is, it's one of the healthiest foods, period.
Just over two tablespoons of coconut oil daily will give you a therapeutic dose. Start with smaller portions and work your way up, and always take it with food to minimize stomach discomfort.
See my page entitled Is Coconut Oil Healthy? and discover the truth about coconut oil.
Herbs and spices go a long way towards warding off mental decline. It's a little-known fact that herbs and spices have far greater concentrations of antioxidants than any common fruit or vegetable. Spices typically contain a particularly wide variety of antioxidants as well, which makes them effective at fighting many different kinds of free radicals in different parts of your body.
Typically, countries where people consume lots of spicy foods also have very low incidences of Alzheimers as well as heart disease, cancer, and most other degenerative diseases that have been so common in the United States and other western cultures.
The most beneficial spices for brain health are curcumin, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme and green tea. Adding these to your daily menus would be a great idea.
Curcumin (the source of the spice turmeric) is most known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, and people with Alzheimers tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains. It has the ability to penetrate the blood brain barrier (a membrane that protects your brain from toxins) and bring valuable nutrients to your brain. Curcumin is one of the most powerful antioxidants known.
Cinnamon. Researchers have found that extracts from cinnamon bark inhibit the development and progression of toxic compounds that have been found in Alzheimers brain plaque formations.
Scientists fed mice genetically altered to develop an aggressive form of Alzheimers disease. After a period of four months, researchers found that development of the disease had been slowed dramatically and activity levels and longevity were comparable to a control group of healthy mice.
Rosemary has been shown to increase the blood flow to the head and brain, improving concentration. It stimulates mental activity and is a good remedy for depression and mental fatigue.
Thyme Thyme has also been shown to be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimers disease. Thyme is believed to stimulate the nervous system, alleviating such nervous disorders as depression, nightmares and insomnia. It acts as a memory booster and helps you concentrate.
Green Tea is known to provide a wide spectrum of protection to the brain. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research showed that green tea inhibits the activity of certain enzymes in the brain linked with the development of Alzheimer's Disease. In another article published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers reported that green tea decreases production of an Alzheimers-related protein which can accumulate in the brain and lead to memory loss.
Last on the list of brain-healthy foods is Raw or Dark Chocolate. Chocolate increases brain chemicals that help you stay focused and alert. Dark chocolate also boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours, and may help to increase performance in tasks that require an alert mind. Raw chocolate is best; if you choose to go with processed chocolate, get the darkest variety possible.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is an antioxidant that's both fat- and water-soluble, so it can be found in almost every area of your body. ALA also has the rare ability to penetrate the blood brain barrier, a special property that allows it to protect against strokes, memory and brain aging. ALA acts to remove excess mercury, aluminum and other heavy metals out of your brain tissue. As mentioned above, excess levels of aluminum and mercury may be an underlying cause of Alzheimers disease.
Coenzyme Q-10 protects the brain from damage done by food additives such as MSG and aspartame, and heavy metals such as mercury. CoQ-10 also increases glutathione levels in the brain, and has been shown to improve memory, concentration and learning ability.
Coenzyme Q-10 is instrumental in increasing brain-cell energy production, essential for normal brain function. In addition, CoQ-10 prevents damage from oxidative stress that may lead to the onset of degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington's, and Parkinson's.
Vitamin D Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may protect your brain cells. Vitamin D may also have beneficial effects on Alzheimers through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is essential for proper functioning of your immune system.
Resveratrol is another one of the few antioxidants that can cross your blood-brain barrier and protect your brain and nervous system from degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimers.
One of the more intriguing benefits of resveratrol is that it seems to produce responses in your body that are similar to those you get from exercise, such as re-energizing cells and boosting endurance.
Ginkgo Biloba is an important supplement for the improvement of brain function. Because it increases circulation and the oxygen supply to the the brain, ginkgo is often recommended for increasing mental sharpness, concentration, and memory; it may also play an important role in Alzheimers disease prevention.
Numerous studies has shown that treating with ginkgo can slow the deterioration of memory and thinking ability in people with Alzheimers disease. Some researchers think that this flavonoid complex can actually reverse free radical damage to brain cell membranes. Ginkgo also neutralizes a free radical called nitric oxide, which controls communication among your brain cells.
Astaxanthin, a recently-discovered antiioxidant, may be more valuable than any other for Alzheimers disease prevention. It has already been shown in the lab to be the strongest natural antioxidant known. Astaxanthin can also cross the blood-brain barrier to protect the brain and nervous system, similar to alpha lipoic acid. Astaxanthin is one of the most potent anti-inflammatories known.