Alzheimer’s Disease

6 Ways to Protect Yourself (and Loved Ones) from Alzheimer’s Disease

How to Keep the Cobwebs Away and Prevent Alzheimer’s

What would it be like to no longer recognize the face of a loved one? To no longer have memories of that magical vacation you spent years saving for? To not remember your wedding day, your children, or even what you did yesterday?

I don’t know what that would be like, and I don’t want to find out. I am assuming you don’t either.

Scientists are working frantically to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but for now it seems like YOU are the best solution for protecting you and your family from suffering the loneliest death imaginable. Here is what YOU can do …

DISCLAIMER: Before I offer some suggestions (based on science), I am required by law to make a disclaimer: “The following comments are not meant to diagnose or treat any disease, nor have they been approved by the FDA.”

The Research

Alzheimer’s disease is a growing, global problem. According to the World Alzheimer’s Report, nearly 50 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia (Alzheimer’s disease being the predominant form of dementia). They project this number will increase to over 130 million by 2050 due to population aging. This number will only get bigger if people don’t wake up to the impact their lifestyle habits have on their brain and body’s function.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and ultimately destroys brain cells. In the Alzheimer’s brain, the outer cortex literally shrivels up as this disease attacks parts of the brain involved in thinking, planning, and remembering. This shrinkage is really bad in the hippocampus, a key area for forming new memories. In addition to the shrinkage and destruction of brain cells, the fluid-filled spaces in the brain, called ventricles, grow larger. More fluid, less brain cells – not a good combination!

The scientists have identified several abnormalities common in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. Some include the loss of connection between brain cells or ultimately the death of brain cells. Inflammation, triggered by the body’s immune system is also a red thread. Finally, there is a common presence of “plaques” and “tangles” in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. Plaques are microscopic clumps of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid. Consider them cobwebs getting in the way of brain cells trying to communicate with each other. Tangles are twisted microscopic strands of the protein tau. Plaques and tangles just get in the way of normal brain function.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease (yet!), there is A LOT you can do to prevent, delay, or reverse the effects of this heartbreaking and frustrating disease. Your goal is to avoid inflammation, keep your brain cells active and communicative, and support healthy brain function to keep the plaques and tangles away.

People with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years, but some people may survive up to 20 years. The rate of progression varies greatly depending on age at diagnosis and whether other health conditions exist. Regardless of what phase you are in (no signs, showing signs, diagnosed), there are things you can do to prevent or postpone the progression.

6 Ways to Protect Yourself (and Loved Ones) from Alzheimer’s Disease

1) Keep your BODY active

Move your body. EVERY DAY. What you do doesn’t matter as much as that you get up and do something daily. Walk, swim, take a yoga class, play racquetball, anything. Being sedentary makes you a sitting target, literally. Exercise can both prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. So, get up, move your body, and you are more likely to win the game of dodgeball with Alzheimer’s disease (Paillard, Rolland, & Barreto, 2015).

2) Keep your BRAIN active

Making your brain work hard 3-5 times per week is a key strategy to avoid or at least delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Examine the books you are reading. Replace some of your fantasy/pleasure reading with books that challenge you to focus, lean in, and learn something. Sitting on the couch watching Jeopardy probably isn’t going to cut it. But … if you commit to spending 10-15 minutes learning more on your own about the Final Jeopardy question, you are making an improvement.

Take your parents to to explore ways to build their cognitive capacity or at least delay symptoms. Daily crossword puzzles, brain teasers, on paper or online can also keep your brain active.

3) Stay Social

Here is a fun one! Multiple studies indicate that keeping strong friendships as we age can lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. The research indicates it is the quality of the friendship that makes the difference, not the quantity of friends (Kuipar, 2015). So, encourage your elderly loved ones to get together with a good friend to play card games, take a painting class together, or plan a weekly lunch date. It can be a life saver!

4) Fuel your body with brain support

The goal here is to reduce inflammation in the brain and keep your heart healthy. Studies show a strong connection between heart disease and Alzheimer’s (Hakim, 2013). The Alzheimer’s Association claims that up to 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have cardiovascular disease. Healthy heart – healthy brain. Keep them both healthy.

Get plenty of omega-3s from ocean-caught fatty fishes (salmon, mackerel, sardines, and cod) or fish oil. Antioxidants (berries, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, dark chocolate, and others) are powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Some studies also point to Vitamin B (B12, B6, and folic acid) as protective against Alzheimer’s disease. In general, the Mediterranean or MIND diets are most recommended for postponing and preventing Alzheimer’s (Otaegui-Arrazola et al., 2014; Morris et al., 2015).

5) REDUCE your sugar intake

Sugar and carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels (blood glucose). Studies are showing that high-sugar diets can lead to cognitive impairment, putting you at risk of neurodegenerative disorders – Alzheimer’s disease being just one of them (Matos, Macedo, & Rauter, 2017).

Look in your pantry and make a commitment to not repurchase foods you typically keep on hand that are high sugar/high carb foods. Remember, carbs turn into sugar. Consuming too much of both can put you at risk of Type 2 Diabetes. And that has been linked to Alzheimer’s (Matos, Macedo, & Rauter, 2017). Finish off what you have, and then buy more greens and proteins to meet your caloric needs.

Listen, I enjoy sugar and carbs (that turn into sugar) just like most people do. But I eat them very sparingly. If you think you’ll miss them, you’re probably right. But don’t you think you’ll miss being able to recognize your loved ones even more?

Here’s a secret: the less sugar and carbs you eat, the less you’ll miss them. Make carbs 10-20% of your intake, and no more. Your body runs better on vegetables, healthy fats (not trans fats), and complex carbs such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal but not so well on chips, pasta, cookies, or white Russet potatoes. (Morris et al., 2015).

6) Add the right supplements

In addition to making adjustments to your diet, here are a few supplements that have strong evidence to support them preventing or postponing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease:

  1. Curcumin
    They yellow pigment in turmeric is called curcumin. It is a remarkable compound and a must-have in your diet. Curcumin is a very powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties (Zhang, Chen, Du, Zheng, Li, & Zhou, 2018). Only purchase the capsules which have black pepper with it. Supplements available on Amazon.
  2. Galantamine
    The FDA has approved the use of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEls) to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show they improve cognition, global function, behavior and activities of daily living. Galantamine, one of several cholinesterase inhibitors, can be obtained from Life Enhancement on Amazon in its most natural form (Matsunaga, Kishi, & Iwata, 2014).
  3. CoQ10
    Coenzyme Q10 acts as an antioxidant and has been shown to prevent and treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (Yang et al., 2015). It is conveniently available at most health food stores.
  4. Gingko Biloba
    This supplement has strong anti-neuroinflammatory properties that can prevent or prolong the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (Gargouri et al., 2018). Again, readily available on Amazon.

Talk to a friend whose loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and listen to their experience. That alone will likely be enough to motivate you to make any needed adjustments to keep you and your family as far away from this dreadful disease as possible. Sit down with your parents and have a serious conversation about the future of their brain function.

Update on Newest Potential Interventions

Remember that in an Alzheimer’s brain there is a presence of plaques – the microscopic clumps of protein fragments called beta-amyloid. We called them the cobwebs getting in the way of brain cells communicating with each other. Most drugs being tested are targeting these plaques and trying to get rid of them. Unfortunately, most drug trials are failing. But one is giving scientists (and patients) new hope.

The most promising drug to keep an eye on in the news and research isAducanumab.

This drug targets beta-amyloid (the chief component of plaques). Early studies of this drug showed encouraging results of a decrease in the level of beta-amyloid in the brains of volunteers (Sevigny et al., 2016). Phase 3 studies are happening now with over 1600 volunteers to test whether monthly doses of the drug can slow down the decline of cognitive function. The study will conclude the end of 2019. Keep your fingers crossed – this could be a winner!

Other scientists are taking a different approach to fight Alzheimer’s. Since it is a neuro-degenerative disease, meaning it is marked by the loss of brain cells (and brain function), some scientists are finding success through helping the brain generate new brain cells – neurogenesis! Allopregnanolone is a neuro-steroid that can activate neural stem cells to generate new brain cells. The studies with mice have shown great results in promoting neurogenesis and restoring cognitive function (Irwin, Solinsky, & Brinton, 2014). Phase 1b/2a of human trials have been completed as well with successful results. A larger phase 2 trial is in the works. Who knows? Maybe with a little neuro-steroid boost the Alzheimer’s brain can replenish itself!

Remember, I am not a medical professional. Do not create a treatment plan based on this newsletter. Let this be a stepping stone of knowledge for you to continue on the path of informed prevention and care for you and your loved ones.

Your brain is a magnificent organ – please take good care of it so it can function at its highest capacity, even as you age.

Eric Jensen
CEO, Jensen Learning