Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is at epidemic proportions, with numbers climbing to 400,000 Australians living with dementia.1 Alzheimer’s disease has recently been nicknamed ‘Diabetes Type III’ and is strongly linked to inflammation caused by high insulin levels. Although Alzheimer’s is a disease with no known effective treatment, its prevention is actually easier than you might think.
This content is intended to be educational; it should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern you should consult an appropriately licensed physician or health care worker.
David Perlmutter MD, a practicing neurologist and author of the book ‘Brain Grain’, reveals how and why sugars and carbohydrates destroy your brain. He considers that even slight elevations of blood sugar, well below the range where diabetes becomes a concern, significantly predict the future risk for developing dementia.2
It is important, therefore, to reduce your carbohydrate consumption, aiming for a total of no more than 80 grams of carbs in your daily diet. This means favoring vegetables that grow above ground like kale, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower, as opposed to those that store carbohydrate in the form of starch like potatoes and beets. It means limiting fruit consumption and being especially vigilant with things like fruit juice.
In 2012, The Mayo Clinic published a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease demonstrating that individuals favoring a high-carb diet have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, in contrast to those who ate a lot of protein and ‘healthy fats’, whose risk was decreased by 44%.3
Eat more healthy fats
Increase your consumption of healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, grass-fed beef, wild fish, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. At the same time, keep in mind that modified fats like hydrogenated or trans fats are the worst choices for brain health. Cooking-oils such as corn and soy oil that have been processed in order to remain on grocery store shelves for months or even years, have no place in a ‘brain healthy’ diet.
Reduce Zonulin Activation
Foods that contain gluten trigger a gut protein called Zonulin, which enhances inflammation and tends to make your gut porous and leaky. Zonulin can also make your blood-brain barrier leaky, allowing foreign proteins to migrate into your brain, where they clearly do not belong.4 Recent research has shown that this reaction to gluten may occur in all humans.5
Just 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by causing your nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections, and protecting them from damage. Aerobic exercise actually activates the DNA that turns on the growth of the hippocampus (the brain’s center of emotion, memory and autonomic nervous system), giving you a second chance at not only preserving but actually enhancing memory function. Exercise reduces free radical production and inflammation and has been shown to turn on a brain growth hormone called ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factor’ (BDNF). This hormone strengthens your brain’s ability to both repair itself and grow new brain cells.6
Take Fish Oil
Research has shown that it’s possible that starting fish oil supplementation during or before middle age could protect against developing Alzheimer’s even for people with the genetic marker. If you think of the gene for Alzheimer’s as a light switch, taking fish oil earlier in life could prevent the switch from being flicked on.7 Like aerobics, DHA (the fatty acid in fish oil) activates the gene pathway that enhances growth of new brain cells where you need them most – in the memory center. Simply adding a nutritional supplement that provides 1,000mg of the omega-3 DHA to your daily supplements can do this.
Get your sleep
Getting adequate sleep on a regular schedule is critical to the management of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. An increasing number of studies have linked poor sleep to higher levels of beta-amyloid – a brain-clogging protein that interferes with sleep, especially with the deep sleep necessary for memory formation.8 A good night’s uninterrupted sleep may literally clear the mind, as sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain and is vitally important for flushing out brain toxins. The glymphatic system, a drainage system in your brain, effectively cleans out amyloid beta plaques from your brain.9 The majority of this cleaning process occurs when the gap between the nerve-ends increases during REM (dream) sleep.
Alzheimers Austalia, 2015. Summary of dementia statistics in Australia. https://fightdementia.org.au/about-dementia/statistics
Perlmutter, D. 2015. Even Slight Elevation Of Blood Sugar Threaten Brain Healthhttp://www.drperlmutter.com/even-slight-elevation-blood-sugar-threatens-brain-health/
Journal of Alzeimer’s disease, 2012. Eating Lots of Carbs, Sugar May Raise Risk of Cognitive Impairment, Mayo Clinic Study Finds. http://www.j-alz.com/content/eating-lots-carbs-sugar-may-raise-risk-cognitive-impairment-mayo-clinic-study-finds
Fasano, A, 2012. Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases. Published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384703/
Stetka, B. S., Perlmutter, D., 2014. Dementia: Is Gluten the Culprit? Published in Medscape. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/819232_3
Perlmutter, D, 2015. Higher BDNF, Less Dementia: Your Brain Really Does Have A Second Chance! http://www.drperlmutter.com/tag/bdnf/
DiSalvo, D., 2014. Fish Oil Prevents Brain Shrinkage And Cognitive Decline In Older Adults. http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2014/07/18/study-fish-oil-prevents-brain-shrinkage-and-cognitive-decline-in-older-adults/
Smith, M, Robinson, L., Segal, J., 2015. Alzheimer’s and Dementia Prevention: How to Reduce Your Risk and Protect Your Brain as You Age. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia/alzheimers-and-dementia-prevention.htm#sleep
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health, 2013. Brain may flush out toxins during sleep. http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep