Protect yourself from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board certified chiropractic pediatrician and nutrition counselor
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately one in every three seniors will die from Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. If we continue our current trend, up to 16 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease by 2050. A person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia worldwide about every 3.2 seconds. There are currently about 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and about 46.8 million people (about twice the population of New York) around the world living with dementia. Cases are expected to double every 20 years reaching approximately 131.5 million cases worldwide by 2050.
These are some scary statistics, but there is good news. Age related dementia and Alzheimer’s can be prevented.
Acquired Alzheimer’s disease could be described as a disease of the western diet and lifestyle habits. We consume too many processed foods and carbohydrates, too many refined sugars, too many omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and not enough foods rich in antioxidants. These along with a lack of exercise, and avoiding good fats and cholesterol create a perfect environment for amyloid beta plaque formation in the brain. There is a growing amount of information linking gut dysbiosis, leaky gut and brain, and chronic infections along with other factors to Alzheimer’s disease. Genetic or Familial Alzheimer’s disease is due to a mutation on a specific chromosome which leads to plaque accumulation in the brain. A single APOE4 allele increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by five times. APOE4 creates an abnormal transport mechanism for fats and cholesterol into and out of neurons.
A UCLA study published in AGING, September 2014, VOL6 N9, used several modalities such as diet modification, fasting, sleep and stress management, exercise, along with supplements. Nine out of the 10 patients in this study showed improvement in all markers and metrics, with the only exception being a stage 6 Alzheimer’s disease patient. A study published in the Lancet June 6, 2015, also known as the FINGER study, studied 1,260 men and women between the ages of 60-77 who were randomly assigned to a treatment intervention group or a control group. The treatment group was given the Mediterranean diet, strength training, aerobic and balance training, along with cognitive exercises using computer programs for executive function, memory and mental speed, as well as regular checkups for metabolic and cardiovascular health. During the two-year study period, the treatment group had a 25% improvement in cognitive scores. The control group had a 30% greater chance of cognitive decline. The executive function scores were 85% higher in the treatment group. They had 150% improvement in mental speed tests, and a 40% improvement in complex memory tasks like remembering long lists. The APOE4 allele genetic variant group received the most benefit from the study program. This group had a slower rate of cellular aging which was monitored by measuring the telomeres which are the caps at the end of chromosomes.
If you want to protect yourself from any type of neurodegeneration including dementia and Alzheimer’s, a good start is getting rid of added sugars. Over 40% of people over 60 have hyperinsulinemia.
Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance increase your risk of Alzheimer’s by 43% and is not dependent on whether you have APOE4. Therefore, many researchers call Alzheimer’s disease Type 3 diabetes. According to the CDC in 2017, over 100 million Americans have diabetes or are pre-diabetic. Further, 24% of diabetics and 88% or pre-diabetics didn’t know they had the condition. Insulin surges from sugar intake will over time cause a buildup of amyloid beta plaques which is the hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Eating a diet rich in plant-based foods and cutting out processed and packaged foods along with reading labels will get you on your way to getting rid of added sugars and help protect your brain from neurodegeneration. Cutting out sugar will also remove one of the major causes of chronic inflammation and obesity.
There have been several studies in the past few years showing that oral diseases and bacteria may be a direct cause of infectious disease-based neurodegeneration. Oral bacteria such as strep mutans and porphyromonas gingivalis can lead to destruction of the lining in your gut (leaky gut) and can also damage the blood brain barrier (leaky brain) which trigger amyloid beta production. Brushing your teeth and good oral hygiene may reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eliminating added sugars will also reduce formation of oral bacteria. There are studies showing the use of low-level light therapy (LLLT also known as cold laser) in the blue violet wavelength of 400-500nm showing eradication of strep mutans., P. gingivalis, and other oral bacteria. A study from Photochem Photobiol 2018 January 19 compiled data from 79 studies with many of the studies using 405 nm wavelength LLLT. The data showed that gram positive and gram-negative vegetative bacteria are the most susceptible organisms to the 405nm wavelength. LLLT is also an excellent way to lower acute or chronic inflammation.
There has been a lot of research done on the effects of good fats and cholesterol on brain and overall health. The ideal ratio of omega 6 fats (found in oils such as canola, sunflower and corn) to omega 3 fats (found in fatty cold-water fish, grass fed meats, eggs, and walnuts) is 2:1. A ratio of 15:1 increases your risk of all diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and brain demise. Studies show a high number of Americans with 25:1 ratio and some of the studies as high as 70:1. Add cold water, wild caught fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel into your diet at least one to two times per week along with nuts and seeds snacks daily to improve your omega 6: omega 3 ratio. A high-quality omega 3 supplement is also beneficial. These good fats will also reduce inflammation throughout your body.
Exercise improves concentration and memory as it produces BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor. High intensity interval training or HIIT has the greatest effect on BDNF but all forms of exercise are beneficial. Other ways to increase BDNF are: getting enough good quality sleep; vitamin D3 from sun and/or a supplement; time restricted eating or intermittent fasting; a low glycemic and good fat diet; EGCG and polyphenols from green tea; being social and stimulating your senses through language, music and art; and low level light therapy such as cold laser.
There are many damaging effects from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to our state of health including Alzheimer’s and dementia. The good news is, you can reduce your risk for chronic degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and dementia by cutting back on sugar, eating more veggies and cold- water fish, and by moving every day preferably outside. Getting enough good quality sleep, listening to music, learning new things and interacting with others, and good oral hygiene are great for your brain as well.
There are supplements some of which are magnesium L-threonate, vitamin D3, omega 3 fats, melatonin and NAC along with LLLT to give you added protection. Remember, it is never too late to make a shift in health.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs is a board certified chiropractor and nutrition counselor at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, or call 715-362-4852.